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Happiest Hour: Rainier on tap

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What you’re drinking: Something extremely rare and highly elusive: Rainier beer, on draft. It’s everywhere in cans and you’ll occasionally see it in a bottle, but this is different. This is everything you love about Vitamin R—its sparkly carbonation, its unassuming but deliciously malty taste, its refreshing crispness—but more so. It’s like the difference between eating an orange and drinking an Emergen-C.

Where you’re drinking: At the only bar in Missoula—and one of the very few in all of Montana—that offers Rainier on draft: James Bar, which is right downtown, at 127 W. Alder St.

Atmosphere: Though it’s not necessarily the kind of dive where you’d expect to find Rainier in such rare form, the James Bar does its best to make the space feel comfortable. On the inside walls, there are huge black-and-white photos of rock stars like Janis Joplin. On the outside walls, there are quotes from Hunter S. Thompson and Jimmy Buffett.

When you’re drinking: Late on a Friday afternoon is a good time to be in James Bar. Though it’s starting to bustle, there are a few open stools at the bar and plenty of seats on the sunny back patio.

Who’s having another: According to Marias, a bartender who declined to give her last name, Rainier drafts are most popular among a group of regulars who come in especially for them and seem to pack the pints away. “It’s super light,” she says, “so you can drink a million of them and not get hammed.” Then she pulls the tap handle, which is topped with Rainer’s running beer bottle mascot. One of the mascot’s feet is broken off.

What’s on special: James Bar has a long list of ongoing and rotating food and drink specials. Highlights include $5 double Jose Cuervo margaritas, available every evening from 5 to 8, and $5 double vodka Red Bulls from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays. And the Rainier pint? That’ll set you back $2.75.

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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