Drink Local in Montana’s Flathead Valley

Photo © Glacier Distilling

by Megan Hill

The rise in craft brewery taprooms, small-batch distilleries and a few local wineries in northwestern Montana’s Flathead Valley gives testimony to the valley’s quality local sourcing. Producers take pride in the local bounty of Montana-grown malts, local hops, Montana huckleberries and the area’s abundance of Flathead cherries.

Downtown Missoula’s Montgomery Distillery (MontgomeryDistillery.com) is a major force in the region’s distilling using local sourcing. The distiller utilizes grains from their family farm in Heath, Montana, for spirits like gin, aquavit, vodka and several whiskeys. The popular tasting room also mixes fantastic house and classic cocktails.

It’s hard to miss Coram’s Glacier Distilling Company (GlacierDistilling.com), housed in a red barn just outside the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The company uses local grains and Flathead cherries in their spirits, and crafts an array of small-batch whiskeys that hit the spot after a day of hiking or driving in the park.

With a professed dedication to local sourcing, Whistling Andy Distillery (WhistlingAndy.com) in Bigfork relies heavily on local grains, cherries and botanicals for their spirit line that includes whiskeys, gin, and a fascinating hibiscus-coconut rum (no, they do not use Montana coconuts). They’ll happily give you a tour of the distillery, or you can simply sip and relax in the welcoming tasting room.

Award-winning Kettlehouse Brewing (Kettlehouse.com) operates two locations in Missoula, both serving favorites like the Cold Smoke Scotch Ale and the Eddy Out Pale Ale. The brewery uses Montana-grown barley malted in Great Falls, and the spent grain post-brewing is sent to local farmers as feed for happy livestock. They’ve also partnered with Le Petite Outre Bakery in Missoula, which bakes the grain into their Brewer’s Spent Grain Bread.

Downtown Whitefish’s Great Northern Brewing (GreatNorthernBrewing.com) is a must for beer fans, where you’ll tap into a phenomenal line-up that includes the Going to the Sun IPA, Wild Huckleberry Wheat Lager and several rotating brews. Among the local ingredients featured are—you guessed it—huckleberries hand-picked in Montana.

Flathead Lake Brewing Company (FlatheadLakeBrewing.com) prides itself on its use of Montana-grown malt, which makes appearances in nearly all of its beers. Along with a solid selection that includes an IPA, a blonde and a saison, there’s also a sour series and a tasty espresso porter, made in collaboration with Colter Coffee in Kalispell.

Northwestern Montana is not thought of as a wine grape-growing area, but award-winning Mission Mountain Winery (MissionMountainWinery.com) proves that it can be done, and done well. Situated on the western shore of Flathead Lake in Dayton, estate-grown grapes include pinot noir, pinot gris, marquette, riesling, chardonnay, and gewürztraminer, supplemented with Washington-grown grapes. There’s also a wine blended with Montana-grown huckleberries.