This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

State #16: Montana

Beer: Moose Drool Brown Ale

Brewery: Big Sky Brewing Company, Missoula, Montana

ABV: 5.1%

Want to trick your friends, neighbors, the cops, or your dogs into thinking you're drinking an ice cold coca-cola? Have a brown ale. It's almost as sweet, too!
I’ve never been to Montana. It’s part of that big, upper-middle part of the country that I’ve yet to visit—the only part I’ve yet to visit in the main 48 states. But from all accounts it’s beautiful. Its nickname is the Big Sky State, owing to the expansive terrain and empty spaces one encounters throughout the state: it’s bigger than Japan, but has 300,000 fewer people than the city of San Diego. It’s got plains in the east, mountains in the west, geysers in the south, and glaciers in the north (well… sort of). You can fish, camp, hike, bike, canoe, look at bears, look at bison, and look at many much moosen. And what does one want to do after completing all these activities? Why, have a beer, of course.

Little known fact: the clean, clear waters of Montana's Yellowstone River are NOT fed by glaciers in the Rockies.
Missoula’s Big Sky Brewing Company has taken all of this outdoorsy identity and heavily branded their beer with it. The name of the brewery alone instantly screams Montana, as do the names of all the individual beers. I tried the delightfully assonant Moose Drool Brown Ale; other offerings include Trout Slayer Wheat and Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout. It was fine. Its biggest problem is that it’s a brown ale, which I almost universally find to be too sweet. However, if your experience with brown ales is limited to Newcastle, then you should probably try Moose Drool, which is thicker, a skosh more bitter, and a lot more flavorful. Still, though, too sweet; I can’t imagine actual moose saliva tastes anything like this.

Big Sky Brewing's other cheekily-named options.
It’s slightly ironic that Big Sky's hometown of Missoula is perhaps the least Montana-like place in the state. It is a pocket of liberal urbanity, with an economy driven by the University of Montana, in a conservative, rural state economically driven by agriculture and mining. Given craft beer’s connection with more liberal and urban cohorts, it’s not surprising that the state’s biggest craft brewery is in Missoula. That being said, at least the folks at Big Sky have the good humor to acknowledge this:

The bottom side of Big Sky's bottle caps evoke Missoula's odd town-gown-ish relationship with the rest of the state. Curious what the 3-7-77 on the bison skull refers to? Lookie here.

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