SunRift Beer Company to Add a Restaurant

The draught house will offer food and no drink limits in addition to the tasting room

By Maggie Dresser
SunRift Beer Company is expanding its operations into an adjacent building by the railroad tracks in downtown Kalispell, as seen on Oct. 11. Remodeling of the new space will be completed sometime next year. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Within the next year, microbrew drinkers at SunRift Beer Company will have additional seating, a restaurant, extended hours and no drink limit in downtown Kalispell.

SunRift Beer Company is currently revamping a 100-year old building, which sits adjacent to the already operating tasting room, and transforming it into an industrial-style draught house restaurant.

The draught house will serve smoked meat, tacos and nachos and offer unlimited brews, even past 8 p.m. SunRift beer will come from the tasting room right next door.

With the new restaurant, owner and head brewer Craig Koontz says the draught house will be able to stay open later without drink limits because it won’t be considered a “tasting room.” The existing tasting room and new restaurant will have separate licenses, as required under state law, with the brewery technically selling its beer to the restaurant.

“If you can’t beat them, you join them,” Koontz said.

While Koontz says the opening date for SunRift Draught House is uncertain at this point, it should be up and running within the next year.

Koontz tentatively plans on having kitchen hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and switching to a late-night menu at 9 p.m.

“We’d like to create an urban environment and have a little nightlife,” he said. “It’d be nice to have some of the nightlife come back to Kalispell and not all of it go to Whitefish.”

While SunRift currently hosts live music on Monday nights, Koontz plans to build a stage across the parking lot, and a front porch patio with a 100-person capacity will overlook the stage.

The sun-lit back patio on the south side of the building will sit alongside the future pedestrian and bike path established through the Kalispell core and rail development project. Kalispell is scheduled to tear out the railroad tracks in September 2020 and replace them with a recreational path through town.

Koontz’s decision to establish SunRift in this location wasn’t coincidental. In the future, locals will be able to walk or bike to the brewery and overlook the path while sitting on the back patio.

The back patio will be the final phase of the project, and Koontz will complete the south side of the building once the tracks are torn out. In addition to the back patio, the south side will also have windows connecting the patio to the indoor, 40-foot-long bar, allowing customers to order from outside.

As Tamarack Brewery’s former head brewer, Koontz is no stranger to creating craft beer. Following his departure from Tamarack in 2012, he brewed in Alaska, Arizona and Seattle until he returned to the Flathead in 2017 with his wife, Megan, who co-owns SunRift.

Koontz has incorporated themes from other breweries while focusing on space utilization with a functional railing, which surrounds the patios.

“It’s not just a fence; it’s a space to set a mug,” Koontz said.

Total capacity in the 2,500-square-foot draught house will be 260, and Koontz uses every inch of space for customers to sit, stand next to a railing or dance in the parking lot during live shows.

The current SunRift brewery won’t see any changes with the new draught house and will remain the same size with the same hours.

While SunRift expands on the property, Koontz says he has no intentions of canning or distributing SunRift beer in the future.

“This is the only place you’re going to get SunRift beer,” he said. “We’re one of the smallest breweries in the valley and we intend to stay that way.”

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