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In case you haven't noticed, this week's Indy is a bit preoccupied with beer. If you haven't already flipped to the horoscopes or "This Modern World," you may be wondering why we're so hopped up on hops and malted barley.

For starters, beer—much like coffee, nonprofit work and unleashed canines—is a pretty integral part of Missoula culture. Three different breweries run four local taprooms, none of which is more than seven miles apart. Each brewery boasts its own dedicated hoard of followers; people wear Bayern, Big Sky and Kettlehouse garb around town like sports fans in normal cities show an allegiance to certain teams. More recently, this phenomenon has spread to seemingly every corner of western Montana, as new breweries pop up—in Stevi, Lakeside, Bigfork—at a rate only surpassed by medical marijuana clinics. There's a sense of pride in our craft beers, and they seem to say as much about where we live as anything.

We tapped into this rich tradition years ago for the Indy's Golden Growlers competition. In the summers of 2005 and 2006 we invited the entire staff, a few friends and the Zoo City Zymurgists (hey, someone had to know what they were doing) to our editor's backyard and embarked on a blind "taste test" of about 30 different beers in hopes of declaring a winner. Sounds like fun, and it was. But let's put it this way: When sipping 30 beers during one sitting, the only true winner is the local cab company and, if we remember correctly, a carpet cleaner. We miss the competition—and, based on a few scattered pleas for its return, so do some of you—but its short run needed to come to an end.

Plus, we learned later that the Zoo City Zymurgists already do this particular taste test thing—like, officially—for the Garden City BrewFest. In fact, that event, which opens its taps Saturday, May 1, at Caras Park, does a pretty decent job of celebrating our local breweries with more than 60 beers available for tasting.

So, based on our obvious affection for suds, Missoula's support for local brewers, our desire to revive some element of the Golden Growlers and this weekend's annual rite of spring, BrewFest, we've dedicated nearly every page of this issue to ales, lagers and the like.

We promise not to do anything like it for another year—or at least until we find the stomach for an all locally roasted coffee issue.

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