If you’ll allow me the pun, good things are brewing in Kalispell. After all, beer is my business. Recently, Kalispell Brewing Company celebrated its fourth anniversary and two new craft breweries have opened their doors, Sunrift Beer Company and Bias Brewing. Another brewery, Sacred Waters, is currently under construction. Until 2014 Kalispell was the largest town in Montana to not have a brewery to call its own. And now, fans of fermentation have many options to choose from and it’s a good thing. Craft breweries are at once all about the beer, and then more than that. According to “The Continuing Economic Report of Craft Brewing in Montana,” a 2016 report by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana, craft breweries in the state contribute over 1,000 jobs. At our Main Street downtown Kalispell brewery, my husband and I proudly employ 13 individuals who serve as our brewers and beertenders and, if I may, are some of the finest, smartest, and kindest human beings you’ll ever meet.
These kinds of sentiments are not uncommon in the craft beer industry. From a local scale to the national craft beer scene, there is a true sense of camaraderie and community amongst the tribe of often-bearded people who are passionate about the science and art of making beer. It’s a time-honored craft to make beer, and along with the recent revolution of craft beer, tradition meets innovation and the end result is delicious.
Community also plays a major role in the industry and I first experienced this sense of community when I was 16 and worked at a microbrewery in my small hometown in northern Michigan. It was a family run brewery, and I waited tables, did dishes, and got a firsthand glimpse into the trade that I would later fall fiercely in love with. The brewery was housed in a defunct old warehouse on the corner of town that benefited from the brewery’s influence. Similar to that brewery, when my husband and I decided to start our own brewery, we knew that we had to be on Main Street and although it took a lot longer than we anticipated, we committed ourselves to reviving the former Hendrickson Motor Company, brick by brick. The BBER report tallied Montana’s craft breweries contribution of $46 million in gross sales and significantly invigorating neighborhoods and fostering community relations. I’ve been so lucky to witness this at Kalispell Brewing, and this economic stimulus and community engagement will only continue to thrive in Kalispell with the new breweries, not to mention the distilleries, wineries, and cider operations either open or currently under construction. The godfather of the craft beer movement, Charlie Papazian, has said that breweries are the original social network and in my experience, I can proudly attest to this. What you’ll find in a taproom is a place where folks can gather, talk, share ideas, and often promote good causes and support local organizations in need, just to name a few special things that occur over a beverage.
Cheers to what’s on tap in Kalispell.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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