If you live in Missoula, and enjoy drinking beer, then I am sure that you are fully aware of what has happened in the last 10 years, but first, go back in time to 1986. At this time, Missoula Brewing had been out of business for over 20 years, and Americanized pilsners like Ranier dominated the market. In 1987, German brewmaster Jürgen Knö¨ller opened up Bayern Brewing, and the local craft beer industry had once again been established in Missoula. Five years after Bayern’s opening, Jürgen and a few other local business owners started an annual tradition that still holds today. The annual Garden City Brewfest had begun, and craft brew lovers have flocked to Caras Park in downtown Missoula for the event ever since.
Now, look back to just ten years ago. Believe it or not, there were only three breweries in Missoula. In the past 10 years, the love for craft beer has blown up to ridiculous proportions, and the greater Missoula area is soon to be home to over 10 breweries!
When you live in a city like Missoula, which is in a state that takes 2nd in the nation for breweries per capita, one brewfest is simply not enough. The first brewfest of 2016 was the Winter Brewfest, which was on February, 19th but there are still five more to come!
Wildwood Brewery is located in the Bitterroot Valley, on Hwy 93, North of Stevensville, Montana, just south of Missoula. Jim Lueders is the owner and head brewer who moved to Montana in 1979 and is taking the brewery world by storm. Wildwood Brewery is three years old and is home to some of the most delicious organic beer in the state! Here are a few reasons why Wildwood Brewery is one of the area’s best breweries and why you should go down and check them out!!
1.) The Beer
One of the most important factors when deciding to visit any brewery is the delicious beer. Wildwood Brewery does not disappoint. A few simple ingredients brewed together just right makes these beers an attraction for any craft beer lover. They are Organic and they are amazing!!
Organic Mystical Stout
Mystical stout is an Irish style dry stout similar to that brewed by a renowned brewery in County Cork, Ireland. Organic two-row barley and black roasted malts give this beer a flavor and aroma reminiscent of coffee. This beer is easy drinking and user friendly.
Organic Bodacious Bock
Bodacious Bock is a traditional German spring bock. Three organic malts are employed to give a complexity, which hints of honey. Only German noble hops from the Hallertau region are used for a soft bitterness and floral aroma. It is decoction mashed in the old world tradition. This is a strong beer, imbiber beware!
Organic Discerning Pilsner
Discerning Pilsner is a Bohemian style lager like the original brewed in Pilsen, Czech Republic. This beer is made only with organic Pilsner malt, Czech Saaz hops and very soft water. This beer is decoction mashed in the old world method. It is well balanced between floral hop bitterness and malty sweetness.
Organic White Bark Wheat Ale
White Bark Wheat Ale is a classic Bavarian wheat beer, often called Weiss Bier or Hefe-Weizen. This beer is fermented with a special yeast from Southern Germany which lends some banana and clove flavors. The yeast creates these flavors naturally and there are no additives. Only certified organically grown wheat and barley malts are used and double decoction mash programs in the tradition of German brew masters.
Organic Ambitious Pale Lager
Ambitious Pale Lager is a classic Munich style lager. Only certified organically grown barley malts are used. It is cold conditioned, well balanced between malt and German noble hops.
Organic Karapiller Red Lager
Karapiller Red Lager is made with organic Caramunich malt from Germany and pilsner malt made from two-row barley grown in Montana. The roasted malt gives it a subtle caramel flavor. There are just enough hops to balance the malty sweetness. This beer does not fit any classic style, but it is the brew master’s creation.
Organic Loquacious Duck
Loquacious Duck is a classic German Dopplebock. Malty rich, very subtle hop character. A good choice when trying to keep warm on those cold Montana nights!
2.) The Experienced Brewer
If you’re going to drink fresh, local beer, you might as well drink beer brewed by one of Missoula’s most experienced brewers. In 1987 Jim Lueders, owner of Wildwood Brewery, was hired as assistant brewer at the Bayern Brewery in Missoula and thus began his commercial application. In 1990, Jim traveled to Munich Germany and spent 9 months studying brewing, malting, and soft drink technology at the prestigious Doemens Academy. After finishing at Doemens, Lueders went on a tour through 12 countries getting behind the scenes tours of nearly 100 breweries and related facilities. Upon returning to the USA, Lueders found himself in demand in the young craft brewing industry, which was growing fast. He was first hired as a start-up consultant and head of production for the Saxer Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon in 1993. With youth still on his side he left Saxer to continue consulting for brewery start-ups across the US and overseas. The Wildwood project started in earnest in 2002 when Lueders’ bought all of what was left of the Saxer Brewery, from his past employer. Wildwood Brewery officially opened their doors in March, 2012.
3.) The Surrounding Area
Wildwood Brewery is located in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley. The Bitterroot Valley is nestled between the Sapphire and Bitterroot Mountain ranges. It is home to some of the best recreation spots in the US, including hiking, biking, fishing, whitewater rafting, skiing, wildlife and nature viewing ~ you name it! Whatever takes you outdoors; you can find it in the Bitterroot Valley! Whether it is winter or summer, there is always something to do in the Bitterroot Valley. This surrounding recreational area makes Wildwood Brewery the perfect stop after a day of outdoor activities.
4.) The Sustainability
Wildwood Brewery is building an integrated production system, which will transform waste streams from the brewing process into inputs for a network of industries. The cyclical, efficient use of raw materials and energy will reduce operating costs, allow the associated businesses to sustain themselves at lower production levels than their competitors, and provide a model for sustainable development. In a traditional brewery, producing beer results in a significant waste stream. This waste is a business expense, an inefficient use of resources, a burden on the environment and community, and a loss of opportunity. The Wildwood Brewing Company offers a better way by turning wastes into value added inputs to support other productive enterprises. Eventually, the cycles will be completed so these enterprises provide the majority of needed inputs to each other. The Wildwood Brewing network will be based on a flow of materials from one enterprise to another, making the best possible use of generated “waste” of each process. In this manner, value is added at each stage, and costs are lowered.
5.) The Brewery
Wildwood Brewery has a great small town, community vibe and is located in a beautiful area. The view you have of the Bitterroot Mountains while sitting outside having a beer is unmatched. If you want to sit inside, the taproom has a great, old school brewery feel to it. The state of the art brewing system is feet away from the taproom, so you really get a feel for how the whole brewing process works. You also have the opportunity to help in the canning process. Not only do you get to experience and help in canning the beer, but you will also get paid in beer for it. What could be better? The Building: Wildwood Brewery is a large stucco, timber-framed dairy barn originally built in 1901. Lueders found the rundown structure in Wisconsin, and it took two trailer loads to haul the pieces to Montana. Lueders lined the 22-inch-thick walls with straw bales purchased from a farmer in Corvallis and installed radiant floor heating. The bar is made of salvaged timber from another barn, this one built in Pennsylvania in the 1880s, and the roof is made of recycled metal purchased in Missoula. Lueders made all of the tables in the taproom from old wheel rims and sawed log pieces. The wooden tap handles were sustainability harvested from the top of St. Mary Peak. The building is a really unique and fun place to stop in and have a beer.
6.) The Equipment
The Wildwood Brewery is a state of the art brewing system. It starts with three malt silos, which can hold nearly 100,000 pounds of bulk malts. The malt is brought into the building with a cable and disc conveyor and empties into the malt hopper where it is electronically weighed. An intermediary hopper is used to add specialty grains, which come in bags. The malt gravity flows from the malt hopper through a Künzel 4 roller mill and into the grist hopper. The Künzel is the BMW of malt mills. The grist is brought out of the bottom of the grist hopper with a screw auger, which empties into a bucket elevator bringing the grist up more than 25 feet. The elevator empties into a chain drag conveyor, which gently moves the grist to the mash kettle. A grist hydrator is used to evenly mix the dry grist with temperate brew water. The mash kettle was designed by Mr. Lueders in 1992 and custom made by Mueller, Springfield, Missouri. The other three vessels of the four-vessel brew house were made by BAM, in Freising, near Munich. These vessels include a Brew kettle, a lauter tun, and whirlpool. There is a 50 hp high-pressure boiler, two 50 bbl hot liquor tanks, and a 30-ton chiller. A 1000 square foot cooler building is built in the shadow (North side) of the larger brewery barn. For additional efficiency, there is a 600-gallon glycol reservoir inside the walk in cooler. An outside 600 gallon water/ice tank which includes a heat exchange coil can be used as a pre-chiller at times when the temperature outside is below 30°F. There is cellar capacity of 240 barrels.
All these reasons make Wildwood Brewery a prime stop for any authentic craft beer lover. From the beer to the atmosphere, Wildwood Brewery is a great place to enjoy a delicious organic beer.
Where you can find Wildwood Brewery:
Wildwood’s driveway is about 1/4 mile north of the Stevensville cut off road, just east of where the middle Kootenai Creek Road intersects highway 93. We are across the highway (East) from Lucky Lil’s Casino. Look for a big yellow building with a rust colored roof and three large grain silos in front about 200 yards from the highway. 4018 US Hwy 93 North Stevensville, Montana.
The taproom is presently open everyday from 4:00pm to 8:00pm.
In case you haven’t already noticed, breweries are a hot item in Montana. In 2013, the state ranked 3rd in the nation for breweries per capita. The number of breweries has grown since then, and the community is embracing it. Breweries offer a special experience for those who go. They also give back to the community by supporting non-profits, offer entertainment for people of all ages and gives the people of Montana a place to come together. Without further ado, here is a list of some of breweries worth checking out:
Big Sky Brewing ~ Missoula, MT
One of the largest breweries in Montana, Big Sky Brewing offers a outdoor venue for its summer concert series that includes the likes of Slightly Stoopid, Ryan Adams, The Decemberists and Greg Allman.
Beers to try: Summer Honey, Trout Slayer
Lewis & Clark Brewing ~ Helena, MT
Lewis & Clark brings a state of the art facility along with award winning beers to the Helena community. Awarded best brewery in the Best of Helena Awards, Lewis & Clark has something for everyone.
Beers to try: Miner’s Gold Hefeweizen, Backcountry Scottish Ale
Mighty Mo Brewing Co ~ Great Falls, MT
One of the newer breweries in Montana, Mighty Mo opened its doors in 2013. Since then, it has become one of the most well known breweries in the state with it’s open floor tap room. It’s also one of the few breweries that you can challenge your friends to a game of ping pong.
Beers to try: Dam Fog, Smoke Jumper
The Great Northern Brewing Company ~ Whitefish, MT
Great Northern Brewing Company is home to the tallest building in the town of Whitefish. This unique brewery churns out over 310,000 gallons of craft brew annually. Located downtown, Great Northern Brewery is right in the middle of many attractions.
Beers to try: Wheatfish, Wild Huckleberry
Bozeman Brewing Company ~ Bozeman, MT
Bozeman Brewing opened its doors in 2002 and hasn’t looked back. Located in the historic brewery district, their unique tasting room compliments perfectly with their weekly Sunday Funday events.
Beers to try: Bozone Select Amber Ale, Hopzone IPA
Ten Mile Creek ~ Helena, MT
Ten Mile Creek is an up and coming brewery that is planning on opening its doors in late Spring/early Summer 2015. The owners are some recent college graduates looking to break in to the industry.