Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In Missoula at the Kettle House

     After deliberating for a pint's worth, I decided to sort Montana breweries into the next-door regions group, even though the state does not touch Washington.  Idaho's panhandle, while extravagantly beautiful, has very few breweries, and western Montana, which has many, does drain into the Columbia.  So here I was, in Missoula on a fine spring day, looking at the Kettlehouse brewing works on the railroad tracks over Orange Ave. Mt. Sentinel was reflecting the late afternoon sunshine off to the east.
 Inside, I studied the four choices (an IPA, a Scotch ale, an amber and a pale) and caught a bartender's eye to ask about them.  "Sorry," she said, "last call was five minutes ago."  Well, it was a production brewery without a restaurant and 8 p.m. didn't seem like an unusual closing time for such establishments.  "It's state law," she continued, "brewpubs have to close by 8 unless they buy a tavern license, and we can only sell two pints to a customer."  Fellow on a stool nearby chimed in, "the beer laws here are downright medieval."  I figured it was probably not a good time to identify myself as a former staff attorney for the Montana legislature, who worked on a revision of the state liquor laws back in 1975-76.  But that was several years before the craft beer movement was even born.
    It turns out that the tavern owners lobby had defeated the small brewers lobby at the legislature on a bill to extend closing hours to 10 p.m.  Kettlehouse has a nice looking system, with a separate lauter tun and a canning line.
The railroad puts together freight trains just outside the door, so every now and then the sound of boxcars coupling comes crashing through the bar.
(Visited 5/17/11)

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