Happiest Hour: Big Sky's "itty bitty" Pygmy Owl IPA

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What you’re drinking: The latest seasonal release from Big Sky Brewing is described as an “itty bitty IPA.” In other words, it packs the same hoppy flavor and aroma as a standard IPA, but without the bitterness or heavy alcohol content. “It’s a session beer,” says brewmaster Matt Long of the Pygmy Owl’s reasonable 4.2 percent alcohol by volume. “You’re going to want more than one.”

What it tastes like: Long says it has a bit of a tropical fruit flavor, with notes of black cherry, peach and mango. I picked up on a distinct grapefruit vibe, making for a crisp and light finish.

The backstory: Pygmy Owl IPA is brand new, but loyal taproom visitors may notice a similarity to other Big Sky brews. “We’ve had an IPA like this in the taproom, off and on, for about a year and a half,” Long says. “But this is the first time we’ve bottled it, and we changed the recipe a little bit. So, technically, this is an original.”

The name: Over the summer a Big Sky employee on his way to a fishing hole happened upon a pygmy owl just chilling on the trail. The baby owl posed for the employee and those photos became the talk of the brewery and its social media pages. “It was kind of crazy that this thing just stood there and let him take its picture,” Long says. Big Sky decided soon after that the little guy deserved to be on a beer label, and the “itty bitty IPA” provided a perfect fit.

Get it while it lasts: Long explains that Pygmy Owl IPA is a limited release meant to bridge the gap between popular staples Powder Hound Winter Ale and Summer Honey, so it’ll be gone by May. It’s available in six-packs, on tap at select bars and restaurants, and at the Big Sky taproom at 5417 Trumpeter Way.

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

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