Cracking Open Summer

Breweries around the valley are getting ready for the summer rush with new openings, bigger production capacities, and environmental bragging rights

By Molly Priddy
Great Northern Brewing Company's new canning operation in Whitefish on May 7, 2018. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

For many around the valley, there’s nothing that caps off a good hike or float or bike ride or myriad other summer-time outdoor activities than cracking open a cool one and sitting back to enjoy the sunshine.

To help that process along, a few new breweries are adding their porches and brews to the mix, while the Flathead’s many breweries are prepping for the summer season with new packaging, new awards, and new brewing power.


SunRift Beer Company
55 First Ave. W

SunRift Beer Company started pouring its beers for the public on April 25, with a grand opening for the new brewery scheduled for May 19.

“We’ve been really happy, we’ve gotten really positive reviews,” said Megan Koontz, who owns the brewery with her husband, Craig Koontz. “We’re really happy with the support we’re getting from the local community.”

The May 19 bash will close down most of the SunRift parking lot for the party, with two live bands, food trucks, family-friendly activities, and of course, beer.

“We’ve been floating around four beers on tap, we should have… seven or eight by the grand opening,” Koontz said.

SunRift’s website has a full schedule of events, along with a schedule of which food trucks will be at the brewery on which day.

Sunrift Brewing Company in Kalispell. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Kalispell Brewing Company
412 S Main St.

The folks at Kalispell Brewing Company are once again expanding their production capabilities, the third such expansion since the brewery opened in 2012.

Maggie Doherty, who owns the brewery with her husband Cole Schneider, announced that the brewery is adding an extra 80 barrels of fermentation capacity, bringing the brewery’s total to 180 barrels.

When they started six years ago, they had 40 barrels of fermentation capacity.

“It should be all in place by Memorial Weekend,” Doherty said.

KBC is also adding a third beer to its canning line, with the decision to package the Cloudcroft IPA in aluminum.

“The cans have been really, really popular,” Doherty said.

Bias Brewing
409 First Ave. E

The new kids on the brewing block should be ready to open their doors and serve their beer by late June or early July, according to Gabe Mariman of Bias Brewing.

“We’re not rushing, because we want to have six really good beers at a quantity that we will never run out of beer,” Mariman said. “We’re not going to open until we have those six taps filled.”

The brewery, in downtown Kalispell, is running its final tests on its systems, has the materials, and are ready to start brewing, Mariman said. There will be an opening weekend celebration when everything is ready.

“We are going to be very conservative with our opening, but I don’t think we’ll have any problem hitting early July,” Mariman said.

Sacred Waters Brewing Co.
3250 U.S. Highway 2 E

Owner Jordan Van Eimeren wants to bring a brewery to the Apple Barrel, with plans to open the Sacred Waters Brewing Company by September.

“We are on track for September,” Van Eimeren said. “We expect to have six to eight beers when we first open.”


Great Northern Brewing Company
2 Central Ave.

There’s been a major shift at the Great Northern Brewery, one that takes the brewery away from glass bottles and into the business of cans.

“We’re calling it ‘the cansition,'” said general manager Marcus Duffy. “The idea behind it is we’re 100 percent transitioning from bottle production into 100 percent cans.”

This is no small feat – the brewery had to remove its entire bottling line, bring in new equipment for the canning line, and added new automation and other building upgrades along the way.

Cans allow for better portability for adventuring, Duffy said, and they also keep the beer fresher longer since they don’t allow for much oxygen or any sunlight. It also reduces the weight of freight, he said.

The first commercial can run rolled through on Monday, May 7, and the first canned products headed out the door Wednesday, with fully stocked shelves expected around the state by Memorial Day.

“With access to canning equipment and an increasing craft beer market and overall recreational lifestyles, the can is a natural progression,” Duffy said.

New aluminum cans from Great Northern Brewing Company on May 4, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon


Flathead Lake Brewing Co.
116 Holt Dr.

With the Bigfork pubhouse up and running, Flathead Lake Brewing Co. was recently recognized for its conviction to environmentally friendly practices with the first-ever Montana Sustainabrew Award.

The award, issued by the Montana Brewers Association, Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund, and Montana Renewable Energy Association, highlights FLBC’s dedication to sustainable brewing and building practices.

“We did everything we could to make sure this is a lasting facility,” said sales rep and ale ambassador Crystal Wendt. “We’re right on the lake, and being right here and having it in our title, we wanted to make sure everything we do protects the environment we’re in.”

Don’t Miss
Be sure to check out latest happenings at these breweries for weekly events in the summertime.

Bonsai Brewing Project
549 Wisconsin Ave., Whitefish

Backslope Brewing
1107 Ninth St. W, Columbia Falls

Tamarack Brewing Company
105 Blacktail Rd., Lakeside

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