Tired of Empty and Meaningless Thanksgiving Greetings in your Inbox? Here’s a post about beer.

We made a quick trip to Montana in order to take care of some family business. While there I discovered a plethora (maybe even a surfeit) of locally brewed beers. I’m no beer connoisseur, but I do like the uniqueness of a locally brewed beer, and I’m always in search of a good porter, because porters are so hard to find in the United States.  (… turns out that there’s at least a dozen different porters brewed in Montana.) So I went back to the motel and did a bit of research. According to the Beer Me! web site, there are thirty-two different breweries in Montana.

I’ve developed a relationship with the front desk clerk, who is quite knowledgeable about both Husker football and Malta Mustang basketball. Being from Townsend he has suffered many a defeat at the hands of the once Mighty Malta Mustangs. I don’t think they’re as good as they were back in the day of the “3M Company,” but evidently they’re still a force to be reckoned with in Montana basketball.

When we got back from our big birthday bash on Wednesday night, the clerk asked where we ate (the Montana Ale Works) and that led to a discussion of regional beers. The Montana Ale Works features 40 regional beers on tap on a rotating basis. (Since there are quite a lot more than 40 good regional beers available by the keg, they rotate.). Quite frankly, this astounds me. Who knew (other than Montanans) that Montana was such a Mecca for microbreweries? How come a state as sparsely populated as Montana has so many breweries? You’d think it was the Milwaukee suburbs or something. So I made this very comment to my new best friend, the motel front desk clerk.

And it turns out that my new best friend, the front desk clerk is also very wise, for lo!, he had an answer to my question.

Montana is where they grow wheat, barley, hops, and have fabulous tasting spring water polluted only by golden aspen leaves, brown trout, and may fly larvae (and Exxon brand crude oil, if you happen to live along the Yellowstone River below Laurel, but that’s another story altogether). In other words, resources are local, of excellent quality, and abundant, and therefore cheap. Thus it makes perfectly good sense that Montana should be the home of 32 different breweries.

(But is Wolf Point, Montana, smack dab in the middle of the rez, really the best place to locate a brewery? Some of the reservations in South Dakota and Iowa strictly prohibit – and vigorously attempt to enforce – both alcohol sales and possession. But the Assiniboines of Fort Peck aren’t the Brule Lakota nor the Winnebagos nor Omahas. Each nation makes their own rules. I suppose it’s no different than six breweries in Missoula, smack dab in the middle of a university. I do find it very amusing that the first successful concoction of the Missouri Breaks Brewery, located in the middle of the Fort Peck Rez, was India Pale Ale. That must confuse the local school children: Are those real Indians?)

Oh, and by the way, after trying four of the local brews (one can only do so much “research” on a very short trip) my favorite so far is Cold Smoke Scotch Ale brewed by the Kettlehouse Brewery of Missoula: Dark, rich, with more than a hint of blackstrap and it actually is quite smoky. I also had a sip of a very fine Oatmeal Stout that was so smooth and rich it was almost decadent, but maybe a bit too sweet. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who brewed that one.

And, by the way … Happy Thanksgiving. May your sage dressing be moist, your cranberry sauce be abundant, your ecumenical worship service not be overly heretical in its attempt to be inclusive and cooperative; and may your garage remain intact after the younger generation incinerates the hedge and basketball hoop in a foolish attempt to deep-fry the bird just like Guy Fieri did it on t.v.

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