As the temps heat up, the shift to playing outside in Montana is on. Many of our adult beverage choices also shift to match the activities. If you are a wine lover, white wine becomes the natural go-to: crisp, light, refreshing and you can throw some in the cooler or refrigerator. If you are a red wine lover, don’t be afraid to put a little chill on those, too.
As I was road tripping through southwestern Montana on a sunny spring day, getting a little windshield time to reset the gears before the plunge into summer, the state’s beauty once again amazed me. Mountain streams with crisp, chilly water from snowmelt. Fresh green grass across the fields, framed by snow-capped mountains. It was breathtaking and exactly what my soul needed for nourishment.
The energy is palpable in southern Montana when you head south out of Butte and into the Ruby Valley. It feels like home to me, like a cozy blanket. I have made many trips to this little slice of Montana over the past 24 years I have lived here. On this day, I found myself at Burnt Tree Brewing in Ennis, where the Grateful Dead was playing on the stereo and crisp beers were on tap.
The craft beer industry is full of innovation, and the quality seems to keep getting better and better. Technology, creativity and the next “big thing” keep pushing breweries and other producers to churn out new and better beverages. IPA craziness, whiskey barrel-aged stouts, fruited sours, barrel-aged sours — it seems like the ceiling is limitless. The seltzer phenomenon, which also seems to have no end in sight as far as sheer volume, also amazes me. The beer industry of old is severely fractured. Many large commercial producers have sold their souls, as their consumers have departed them for seltzers.
Craft producers that focus on high-quality beverages have looked at this as an opportunity to return to their roots and get back to the foundation of beer, so to speak. Historically, pilsners and lagers out of Germany have been the benchmark for quality, with a formula of keeping it simple and using very few, but high-quality, ingredients. Now there is a pilsner and lager renaissance happening in the craft world, and the quality is high. There is also a new phrase to capture the movement: “Crispy Boi.” I have to say that I’m excited. When you get a chance to consume one of these beers from a craft brewer who has the intention of producing high-quality beer, it can be magical.
The Chill Pils hit the spot at Burnt Tree Brewing, where Jeff Milsap, a partner in the brewery, was behind the wheel on taps. There is something magical about simple beer done really, really well. Burnt Tree really nailed this beer. It’s clean, crisp and refreshing. I ordered the salad special of couscous, arugula, feta and grilled chicken tossed in a fresh lemon vinaigrette. Bam! It doesn’t get any better. Thank you, Burnt Tree, for the nourishment, and thank you, Jeff, for the warm hospitality. I will be back. Cheers!
Raymond Dickinson is the owner of Brix Bottleshop, a certified sommelier and a wine educator with decades of experience in the food and beverage industry. Brix Bottleshop, located at 115 S. Main St. in downtown Kalispell, can be found online at www.brixbottleshop.com.
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