Signature Brews

Top choices in the Flathead Valley craft beer scene

By Dillon Tabish
A server pours a beer at the Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish. Beacon File Photo

A breakdown of four local craft beers that are distinctly flavorful in the Flathead Valley:

Old Stache Whiskey Barrel Porter

BeerTamarack Brewing Company, Lakeside

Craft Facts: 9.1% ABV

Flavor Profile: Lanny McDonald’s birthday is also a big day for beer fans. Every year on Feb. 16, Tamarack Brewing Company releases its revered specialty porter, “The Old Stache,” named after the NHL Hall of Fame hockey player, whose daughter is a co-owner of the brewery and restaurant in Lakeside. This is truly a beer worthy of a Stanley Cup champion. It’s brewed at high gravity to withstand the aging process inside freshly poured whiskey barrels, and over time it gains the flavors that make it distinct: dark chocolate, vanilla, charred oak and subtle bourbon. Once it’s unveiled on Lanny’s birthday, it’s not surprising to see the entire batch sell out within a month. Enjoy it while you can, but not too fast: once it’s poured it’s worth sipping like a good bourbon, allowing the flavors to flourish.

They Said It:

“It’s a true sipping beer and as it warms up and comes closer to room temperature, the flavors really start to come out.” Head brewer Joe Byers

Winter at Noon Dunkel

BeerKalispell Brewing Company

Craft Facts: 5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Since opening its doors in downtown last year, the Kalispell Brewing Company has helped residents discover the flavorful variety of craft beer. The lineup of choices is already up to nine, with head brewer Cole Schneider pumping out popular specialties and seasonals on a regular basis. But if there’s one beer that best sums up the brewery’s unique identity, it’s the Winter at Noon Dunkel. This dark mahogany beer is a German-style lager (Dunkel translates to “dark” in German). Something this good never comes easy, but Schneider utilizes the brewery’s triple decoction system (one of only three in the state) to create a complex profile of malt flavors. The final result is a smooth, satisfying drink that could hold its own in Germany.

They Said It:

“I feel like our Dunkel is a very accessible beer because it’s a low alcohol beer. It’s not very bitter. It’s very smooth.” – Co-Owner Maggie Doherty

Wheatfish Wheat Lager

Great Northern Brewing CompanyGreat Northern Brewing Company, Whitefish

Craft Facts: 4.7% ABV

Flavor Profile: It’s good to appreciate the simple pleasures in life, and the Wheatfish Wheat Lager is definitely one worth enjoying. This crisp, refreshing beer has been around since the early days of the Great Northern Brewery in Whitefish, which is celebrating 20 years as one of the state’s classic craft breweries. For years, Wheatfish was the top-selling beer (today it ranks No. 2 behind the Going-to-the-Sun IPA) at the Whitefish brewery and in many ways it has been a standard-setter in the burgeoning craft beer scene. But while the industry has evolved with complex flavors and products, this one has stayed true to its original flavor as an American take on the wheat beer style, brewed with cascade hops, northwest malted barley and glacier water. It won silver medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival and is dedicated to its hometown of Whitefish.

They Said It:

“It goes well with just about anything. It’s always a good, refreshing beer.” – Head Brewer Joe Barberis

Cherry IPA Sour

BeerFlathead Lake Brewing Company, Bigfork & Woods Bay

Craft Facts: 6.8% ABV

Flavor Profile: From inside its new scenic locale overlooking the north lakeshore in Bigfork, the Flathead Lake Brewing Company continues to push the boundaries. This is one of the only breweries in the state where your taste buds can experience anything quite like their Sour Series, an impressive lineup of award-winning sour beers, including the Cherry IPA Sour and Montucky Sour Brown. The sour flavor is created naturally with a unique strain of yeast, and the entire batch can take up to two years to create. It’s a challenging yet rewarding journey. Specialty brews in the Sour Series have won multiple awards over the years, including a gold medal for the Montucky at the 2014 North American Beer Awards. At the inaugural Montana Brew Fest and Competition in Great Falls last November, Flathead Lake Brewing Company was named the “Montana Brewery of the Year.”

They Said It:

“This growing style is shaking up our taste buds and changing our palates.” – Head Brewer Tim Jacoby

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