Happiest Hour: Wildwood Brewing in Stevensville

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What you're drinking: Organic, Montana-made beers. The region's newest brewery opened in March brewing additive- and adjunct-free Bavarian-style lagers, pilsners, bocks and more. A newer offering caught my eye in the repurposed barn taproom, the taps not 50 feet from the beautiful coppertop tanks. White Bark Wheat Ale, in an amazing nod to the powers of yeast, tastes like banana candy and cloves. There's easily nothing like it, in terms of where hefeweizens normally take you. Next I spy a sign by the cash register saying their Ambitious Pale Lager won Garden City Brewfest's best lager as well as best Montana beer. Tempted with these facts and my own slight snobbery, I venture in. A solid pour creates a heavy head that hangs like a cloud. The first taste is aromatic, the second smooth and the rest falls back with that perfect carbonation like you'll never find in so many American lagers and ales. The rest of the selection, and definitely the maibock-style Bodacious Bock, I'll be back for.

Who you're drinking with: Stevensvillians old and young between 4 and 8 p.m., and anyone you choose, whether that be grandma or your dog Sparky if you come in for a growler fill (or three). But the biggest crowd coming in to taste these new top-fermented treats are “brewers from their breweries, actually” owner Jim Lueders said. “They're beer connoisseurs, it makes sense they'd want to try it.”

What the future holds: They've got a canning line, they've got the design, but the government has to approve the labels, which puts an estimate of availability to about a month from now. “Cans are a good package for beer over bottles, especially in Montana,” Lueders said. “You can take them on the river, hiking, camping. They're light and they recycle.”
As far as varieties, Lueders will try ales on occasion, and some seasonals may stick longer than others, but the IPA trend is not on his radar. “In my mind, beer should be balanced.” Meaning, hops have a place, and it's not the throne.

How to find it: From Missoula, go south on US 93 about 25 miles. It will be on the left side of the road a few blocks before the stoplight that brings you into Stevensville proper. They're open everyday from 4 to 8 p.m.

—Brooks Johnson

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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