SunRift Celebrates Five Years

The brewery will be throwing an anniversary party on May 20 as it looks ahead to opening a second location in Whitefish

By Denali Sagner
SunRift Beer Company’s Head Brewer Justin Olson pours a sample of the Supernova Trippel, a winter seasonal in progress at the SunRift brew house in Kalispell on Dec. 2, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

For Megan Koontz, one-half of the husband-and-wife duo that owns and operates SunRift Beer Company in downtown Kalispell, “We feel like it’s a tremendous accomplishment to be here at five years.”

Koontz and her husband Craig opened SunRift in the former Alano Club building north of the Kalispell Center Mall in the spring of 2018, adding to what was, at the time, a budding craft beer scene downtown. 

While SunRift was the Koontzes’ first shot at owning a brewery of their own, Craig had learned the ropes as head brewmaster of Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside, and through stints making beer with West Seattle Brewing Company in Seattle, Wash., Baranof Island Brewing Co. in Sitka, Alaska and Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe, Ariz. After spending some time on the West Coast, Megan and Craig decided to move their family back to Montana, where they got started on the project that would become SunRift. 

“We are just really focused on creating a space where people want to hang out,” Craig said in an interview with the Beacon in 2018

Now, five years have passed, and SunRift has become a beloved institution in Kalispell and a centerpiece of the Parkline Trail, a multi-use paved path that runs through downtown and opened officially last summer

Craig said that part of what informed his decision to choose SunRift’s current location back in 2017 was the city’s plan to build the Parkline Trail right in their backyard — a calculation that has paid off. 

“We’re definitely seeing some traffic,” Craig said. “We love our neighbors, our food truck court here to the east of us around Main Street. It’s been awesome having that build a good atmosphere around us. We love it.”

Amidst all of the celebrating, Megan said that, above all, she feels grateful to have been one of the small businesses that was able to weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s pretty incredible for us because we are a pre-COVID, post-COVID survivor,” she said. “For us, it’s pretty momentous and we cannot be more grateful for our community because really, it was our community and our regulars that kept us alive during COVID.”

Sunrift will be hosting a 5-year anniversary party on May 20 from noon to 9 p.m. The festivities will include live performances by bands Zootown Music and Ten Minutes Late, food trucks, games and activities for kids, a corn hole tournament and a tater tot eating contest. The first 200 attendees will receive a free commemorative SunRift 5-year glass. 

Beyond just celebrating the brewery’s history, Megan and Craig are looking ahead to the future. The couple will be opening a second location in Whitefish this summer, expanding their craft brews and community vibes to the north valley. 

“We’re pretty excited about it. It’s a big growth and expansion for us, but we’re excited to welcome a new community,” Megan said. 

More information about the anniversary celebration be found on SunRift’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 

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