Cheers! New book details the history of breweries in Montana

When it comes to the history of Montana, the brewing of beer is a tradition as old as Big Sky Country itself – a history lining the pages of a new book by Missoula author Ryan Newhouse.

“We really do have a 150+ year brewing history,” said Newhouse, whose new book is called “Brewing In Montana.”

“Breweries were one of the first buildings constructed in any new place that might have had a mining claim or a new stop along the railroad,” said Newhouse. “That and maybe a church were often the first two buildings constructed.”

Working closely with Lozar’s Montana Brewery Museum in Polson, he discovered some amazing facts about Montana beer. He says one of the most interesting parts of history was the way brewers used to market their products.

“You know a comb that you’d brush your hair with to all kinds of napkins or various signage that just showed the ingenuity and creativity that these brewers had,” said Newhouse.

Newhouse says one of his favorite tidbits of Montana beer history involves the Missoula Brewing Company which brewed Highlander Beer. In the 1960’s, the company ran a promotion, teaming up with a radio station, calling a random listener.

Ryan Newhouse (MTN News)

“We didn’t have caller ID back in the 50’s and 60’s. But if a person answered their telephone saying “Hi, Highlander, hi” they would actually win a case of beer or such,’ said Newhouse. “They would win free beer.”

Newhouse’s book also talks about the Volk Brewery, the first brewery in Great Falls. The company had a tie to the national pastime, creating a handheld broom for baseball umpires.

“It was a little brush, and its amazing that we still have this artifact and it was there it was for the umpires to sweep the plates clean when it got dusted up from batters there and or people coming in sliding into home,” said Newhouse. “There it was just a little touch of brewing advertising for Volk.”

Newhouse was also amazed to find out that some of the pioneers in Montana brewing history would go on to have a role in the founding of regional and national beers.

“Once they started a brewery in Montana they might have gone on and founded some bigger breweries like Olympia,” said Newhouse. “Montana has brewing ties to Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

Brewing In Montana will be available October 3rd through Arcadia Publishing and in Montana bookstores.

You can listen to the full interview with Newhouse on the “McGonigal’s Chronicles: Making Montana Connections” podcast:

The podcast is available on Omni.fm, iTunes, Spotify, Google, and Stitcher. Previous guests include Jeff Ament of the rock band Pearl Jam; Jamie Ford, Great Falls-based NYT best-selling author; Nada Bakos, former CIA operative; and John Cameron, retired Great Falls police detective.


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