Happiest Hour: Four must-try beers at Winter BrewFest

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On Fri., Feb. 15, the Missoula Downtown Association hosts its third annual Winter BrewFest. Much of the pre-fest buzz has been about the venue—for the first time the event will take place outside, in Caras Park, with more than a few heat lamps. While that’s certainly good to know and plan for, we prefer to focus on an even more important aspect of the festival: the beer.

This year’s lineup includes more than 35 brews from more than 25 different breweries. While there are tons of creative options to choose from, we’ve selected four standouts that rise to the level of “must-try.”

1. Kettlehouse’s Cask Huckleberry Cold Smoke
The Missoula brewery is bringing two different versions of its signature Scotch Ale to BrewFest: one aged in merlot barrels and the other cask-conditioned and flavored with huckleberries. You can’t go wrong with either, but the fruity one has become a favorite during brief appearances at the Northside taproom. It tends to go fast, so use an early token.

2. Wildwood’s Karapiller Red Lager
It’s been less than a year since Wildwood first opened its taps in Stevensville, and already the brewery has developed a reputation as one of western Montana’s best. This red lager is described as not fitting “any classic style” and dubbed an original creation by brew master Jim Lueders.

3. Philipsburg Brewing’s Tramway Rye Pale Ale
Unless you’ve stopped in after a day of skiing at Discovery, chances are many Missoulians have yet to try anything from one of Montana’s newest breweries. This is your chance, and word has it the Tramway is P’burg’s most popular pour.

4. Big Sky’s Brush Tail Farmhouse Saison
Curious what bottled brew will be flying out of Big Sky’s doors next? Well, here’s your chance to get an early taste. Brush Tail won’t be on shelves until the end of February, but Winter BrewFesters can score an early sample.

Taps open at Winter BrewFest Fri., Feb. 15, from 5 to 10 p.m. at Caras Park. $10 gets you a 7-ounce tasting glass and two drink tokens. Additional tokens $1.

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

Additional reporting by the always thirsty Alex Sakariassen.

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