What Breweries to Go to and What to Drink Along the Billings Brew Trail
As someone who frequently visits Billings due to having tons of family there, it has been really cool over the past decade to see the downtown area of Billings transform from nothing super special to a hip and happening place. This being Montana though, it’s hip in its own laidback, cowboy way. 🙂
A big reason this transformation is happening in downtown Billings is due to all of the breweries that are popping up everywhere. The brewers of Billings are looking to make a name for the state with its beers and right now there are seven breweries in the downtown Billings area that are part of the Billings Brew Trail.
The Billings Brew Trail makes it even easier for you to experience all this craft beer in Billings; it’s a map helpfully put together by the Billings tourism board. Information for the trail outlines where to find each brewery and what each brewery specializes in.
I was recently in Billings for a reason other than just visiting family when the TBEX travel blogger conference held their 2019 North American conference in Billings. As a guest of the conference I was able to sign up for a brewery tour, which took a group of bloggers and me to four of Billings’ best breweries.
It was a fun introduction to the beer scene of Montana and I learned a lot since in each brewery we went to we had a tour through the back room with the head brewer. On these tours we learned more about the process for how the beers are created. Some of the steps to the brewing process I found undeniably “Montana” and it makes me excited to share these four breweries with you along with some other tips for beer tasting in Montana.
1st Billings Brewery Stop: Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.
This brewery had such a fun industrial atmosphere. It has garage doors that open up to the outside on nice days, but even in the middle of winter this would be a cool brewery to go to. I also really like their Montana-inspired brews such as the huckleberry wheat beer called the Huckleweizen. Other notable beers were the Hot n Tart that was a Jalapeño Passionfruit beer. It was surprisingly good though I probably wouldn’t want to drink a whole pint of it. It had an almost fizzy taste to it though and was almost reminiscent of a sour beer, so I’m sure there’s definitely a market for it! I also liked the mild English, which was very drinkable and would be great after a ski run.
Though I didn’t try it, the Terrible Swede is also of note since it was the first Belgian brew for Yellowstone Valley and the head brewmaster said it’s his favorite. I also thought it was cool that 95% of Yellowstone Brewery’s hops come from Kalispell and that they don’t waste anything. Anything that doesn’t go into the beer goes to a local pig farmer.
Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. was actually the first brewery to open in Billings, though it has changed names since it’s original launch in the city.
Hanging out here in the cool space — called the Garage at Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. — during my Billings brewery tour definitely made me wish that my sister and brother-in-law had brought me here back before I had kids so I could really enjoy such a fun place. Now I’m tired with lack of baby-sitters. 😉
2nd Billings Brewery: Last Chance Cidery
The older I’ve gotten the less I’ve liked ciders. They’re usually too sweet for me. But the past couple years I’ve realized that craft ciders provide a more balanced opportunity to drink without feeling like I just drank soda.
This was definitely the case at last chance cidery in Billings. Last chance cidery was the only cidery we visited in Billings during the brewery tour. This cidery is actually connected to Red Lodge brewery company and it was really interesting to hear how they brought in the head brewer to really help launch their cider offerings. Each cider I tried was crisp and delicious, but I was bummed I couldn’t try the Montana apple one which is completely made from apples. That one is so popular that it is sold out and won’t be back on the menu until the fall harvest happens for more Montana apples. So if you want to try that get there early in the season.
Right behind the wall lining the backend of the bar is where the cider press and all the other brewery machines are housed. I especially found this back of house tour interesting. Maybe because I have a better grasp on how apples work than how hops and barley do!
My favorite one I tried was most definitely the cider made with Flathead cherries. These famous cherries are sourced from Flathead Lake in western Montana’s Glacier Country and it added just the right amount of a sour yet sweet twist to the apple base of the cider.
I was excited to tell my mom about it that night since I know how much she loves Flathead cherries. She had never tried it so (funny story) a couple days later I found myself at the Billings Depot, which is right across the street from Last Chance Cidery. I decided to quickly stop in to Last Chance Cidery to pick up a couple packs of the Flathead Cherry Cider for my mom. Then I headed back to my moms house and when I got in I showed her my surprise for her and she started laughing because she had seen them in one of the local grocery stores earlier that day and had bought a few 6-packs. Needless to say we all enjoyed a cider that night and had many left over!
3rd Billings Brewery: Überbrew
The next brewery we went to was the only one I had actually been to before, though it had been several years. That brewery is Überbrew and it is arguably Billings’ most popular and well-known brewery. Überbrew has a rectangle shaped guest are lined with bricks. A long bar stretches down one side and tables go down the other side and in front of the bar. From the tables in the brewery, you can see into the open kitchen, which serves up delicious comfort food. You definitely don’t want to miss Überbrew’s cheesy fries.
Überbrew’s must-try beer is the Groovis, a hazy IPA that is very drinkable and tastes a bit like an American-style lager, but with a little extra flavor. The Pink Slip is also refreshing on a summer day; it’s a fruit beer made with raspberries.
4th Billings Brewery: Thirsty Street
If you like sour beer then Thirsty Street is the place to head to in Billings since it is pretty much the only brewery in Billings that does sours.
Thirsty Street has an abundance of different types of sours and even as someone who is not a huge fan of sour beer I was even able to find one I liked the Pinot Noir sour. It wasn’t quite as tart as other sours and had a fuller body texture that I enjoyed.
Sour beer isn’t all they have on the menu at Thirsty Street though. I also got a honey-infused beer that was just the right mix of sweetness and hops. The milk stout was also delicious. Very flavorful but not too heavy.
The atmosphere in Thirsty Street is very casual and I liked the corner that had a little snack bar set up where you could get popcorn or pretzels or other light snacks to munch on during your time at the bar.
Taking a tour of the brewing room actually felt like a winery due to all the wine and whiskey and gin barrels that are needed for all the sour beers, which was cool to see.
Create Your Own Billings Brew Trail Walk
I was impressed by all of these breweries and I would say each of them is a must-stop when doing a beer tasting day in Billings. If you want to check out more, look through the Brew Trail map and make your own choices based off of your favorite type of beer and the brewery descriptions.
Note: I was a guest of the Billings Tourism Board and received complimentary tasting at these breweries.