Cruise for Cold Brews

Big Sky Brews Cruise offers a safe way to enjoy the Flathead’s many breweries

Jody McLeod and Britteny Jones love craft beer, but like many of us, they’re not well versed in the chemistry necessary to make the beloved beverage. But that hasn’t stopped the two local women from getting involved in the Flathead Valley’s growing craft beer scene by opening up Big Sky Brews Cruise, a new brewery tour service based in Whitefish.

The two friends got the idea after taking craft beer tours in Seattle and Denver and realized that the Flathead Valley — with a growing stable of breweries and cideries — would be the ideal place to start their own tour service. To help, they worked with Brews Cruise, Inc., an Asheville, North Carolina-based company that was founded in 2006 and operates craft beer tours in the Southeast, Colorado and Idaho.

“This was the perfect way to get involved with the local beer scene,” Jones said.

Currently, Big Sky Brews Cruise offers public tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The tours last between three and four hours and start in Whitefish or Kalispell. What makes Big Sky Brews Cruise unique is that its goal isn’t to bring passengers to as many breweries as possible, but rather offer them a unique experience at three different establishments.

The tours follow the same format: At the first stop, passengers are given a tour of the brewery. At the second stop, they learn a little about the different types of beer made. And at the third stop, they usually get a bite to eat. Tours cost $55 each and include four samples at each brewery.

“We really want to give people a beer education on these tours,” McLeod said.

McLeod said most people are content after four samples at each brewery, but passengers are always welcome to buy a pint — there’s cold-storage on the Brews Cruise van so people can take a growler to go. Each tour can take up to 11 people.

The “Lake Escape” tour starts in Kalispell and takes passengers to either Flathead Lake Brewing Co. in Bigfork or Tamarack Brewing in Lakeside before heading back north to hit Bias Brewing and Sunrift Beer, Co. in Kalispell. The “Tour de Fish” hits Whitefish’s two breweries — Great Northern Brewing Company and Bonsai Brewing Project — before heading over to the Montana Tap House, where passengers can get a bite to eat and enjoy more regional beers, including brews from the Flathead Valley Community College brewing program.

Tours also take passengers to the Kalispell Brewing Company, Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls, Rough Cut Cider north of Evergreen, and Big Mountain Ciderworks in Kalispell. Sacred Waters Brewing Company will be added to the tours later this year when it opens. McLeod and Jones are also thinking of doing a tour with stops at local distilleries. People can also do custom tours Monday through Thursday.

The Big Sky Brews Cruise isn’t the only company offering craft beer tours in the Flathead either. Montana Brew Bus is running excursions out of Whitefish and, like Big Sky Brews Cruise, hits three breweries where people can enjoy some of the best beer the valley has to offer. For more information, visit www.montanabrewbus.com.

Big Sky Brews Cruise made its inaugural run in June and has been growing in popularity ever since, McLeod said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback so far and people are really enjoying it,” she said.

For more information, visit www.BigSkyBrewsCruise.com.