Happiest Hour: Big Sky I.P.A.

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In this week's Happiest Hour, Big Sky Brewing Co. can't keep up with demand for its Big Sky I.P.A. We're guessing the holiday weekend won't help matters much. No hoarding, please.

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Tapped out: Hankering for Big Sky Brewing Co.’s Big Sky I.P.A.? Evidently everyone else it, too: The beer is in such high demand that Montana’s largest brewer can’t make it fast enough. For several weeks the brewery hasn’t even served the beer in its own taproom, leaving I.P.A.-loving growler-fillers high and dry. “It’s the most popular of all of our regular beers in the taproom by far,” says Neal Leathers, Big Sky’s president and co-founder, “so it’s a bad deal to not have it there, but if we have to choose between shorting ourselves and shorting bars and restaurants, we short ourselves first.”

Hopped up: Big Sky I.P.A. is brewed with a hops variety called “Simcoe.” It gives the beer a “citrusy, grapefruity, piney aroma,” Leathers says. But the key is that the hoppiness is balanced with malts, making it somewhat unique among most West Coast I.P.A.s, which tend to be, as Leathers puts it, overly-bitter “hop bombs.”

In demand: Leathers says Big Sky I.P.A. sales are up 32 percent over last year, the highest uptick of all of Big Sky’s beers, which are distributed to 24 states, mostly west of the Mississippi. Not meeting demand, he says, “is a better problem than not being able to sell what you’re trying to produce, but it still isn’t fun to tell people they can’t get your beer.” And Big Sky won’t be able to ramp up production for a while. The brew requires special equipment to dry-hop it. More tanks have been ordered, Leathers says, but they won’t be in place until long after summer’s over.

Where to find it: Leathers hopes to soon have Big Sky I.P.A. kegs back in the taproom, at 5417 Trumpeter Way. In the meantime, try to find it in bars and in cans on local grocery store shelves.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, e-mail editor@missoulanews.com.

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