“This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the lord has intended a more divine form of consumption. Let us give praise to our maker and glory to His bounty by learning about beer.”
-Friar Tuck, Robin Hood
Montanans absolutely love their craft beer! In fact, according to multiple reports, Montana is the state with the third most breweries per capita. Luckily for the residents of Billings, we have no shortage on tap. With 9 distinct breweries in the city alone, the greatest challenge a local may have is determining their favorite one. With the assistance of two local beer connoisseurs, I took on the daunting task of finding our favorite three. With help from the folks over at Visit Billings, you too can hop on the Billings Brew Trail to determine your favorite three! This mobile passport is completely free and offers a curated collection of stops along a self-guided tour, many offering deals and discounts to redeem all along the trail.
When considering the criteria, Billings’ residents Colin Gerstner and Duncan Nelson determined the overall quality and taste of the beer, the ambiance of the brewery, and the selections on the menu. As someone who is well-known as more of a wine enthusiast, I was happy to be along for the ride. Gerstner states, “The best beer in Billings is my cousin Joe’s homebrew. But if you don’t have that connection, you’re still in luck”. With such a variety to pick from, you don’t need to have the family hookup to find fantastic beer in Billings. It was a tough job, but after sampling 34 beers and 6 ciders, at 6 different breweries we were able to narrow it down to our favorite three.
Founded in 2006, Angry Hank’s has been a mainstay in the Billings community. Their honesty is what I believe makes them so approachable—they simply are “a great place to have a pint”. They focus on local sustainability, sourcing their water from the Yellowstone River, their barley from Great Falls, their yeast right on-site, and their hops from the Yakima Valley. They also make an absolute killer beer. One of my pint partners, Duncan Nelson, spent 2008-2021 in Seattle, WA prior to boomeranging home. After sampling hundreds of beers from some of the largest breweries in the country, Nelson states, “Angry Hank’s absolutely stands toe to toe with any of the breweries in Seattle”. “Angry Hank’s is exactly the type of environment you expect from a top-tier brewery”. And at this top-tier brewery, we sampled the following:
Angry Hank’s Blonde Ale
Anger Management Belgian Wheat
Street Fight Irish Red Ale
Hobo Gold Malt Liquor (Seasonal)
Dirty Girl Dunkelweizen (Seasonal)
Raspberry Pucker (Seasonal)
All six were fantastic. I could easily see myself enjoying all three seasonals on a hot summer day; and with the Hobo Gold checking in at 7% alcohol, I could easily get into some trouble. The favorite was a unanimous pick and a local favorite. The Street Fight Irish Red Ale has a deep red color, with a caramel flavor. It is low in hops and bitterness and has a great finish…perfect for any occasion.
Suggested order: Street Fight Irish Red Ale
If you clear your mind and focus while walking down Montana Avenue while approaching Carter’s, you can hear the echoes from Billings’ history. Carter’s is located next to the tracks and down the block a bit from the old depot. Billings started because of the railroad and larger-than-life personalities like Teddy Roosevelt and Calamity Jane visited the station near present-day Carter’s.
Carter’s pays homage to this history with beer names like Midnight Express Oatmeal Stout, Iron Bender IPA, and Handcar Hefeweizen. Like the pioneers that explored our great state, brewer Mike Uhrich enjoys pushing the boundaries with his creations. Carter’s has plenty of selection (I counted 24 beers on tap), so consumers have the choice between adventurous beers or traditional ales that will seem familiar. Our sampling:
Ghost Train Double IPA
3440 Session IPA
Mas Fina Mexican Lager
Farmhouse Saison Locale
Again, all six were great! I would be happy to sip on the Mas Fina, poolside, on a hot day. The Saison was superb. The consensus, however, was the Derailed IPA. It is a well-balanced IPA that is easy to drink yet has plenty of flavor.
Suggested Order: Derailed IPA
A little bit east of central downtown Billings you will find my favorite brewery, Thirsty Street Brewing Company. This location offers a stage where both aspiring and established musicians serenade patrons while they enjoy top-notch craft beers. Thirsty Street is also unique due to its selection of sour beers (all of which are fantastic). We really dug in at Thirsty Street, sampling every beer on the menu:
Montana Smash IPA
Uno Mas Pepper Pale Ale
Bear’s Delight Honey Wheat Ale
Milk of Mazevo Latte Stout Ale
Biere de Blanc-Sauvignon Blanc Sour Ale
Shining Mountain Golden Ale
Domo Sour Ale
Hopster Doofus Hazy IPA
Rimrock’d Amber Ale
Lemon Drop Sour Ale
Big Bison Stout Ale
Good Pickin Sour Ale
Although I tend to lean into the sours, Gerstner and Nelson agreed on the Staycation IPA. It seems like the trend among IPAs is to make the IBUs and ABVs push the boundaries, sometimes to absurd levels. Gerstner states, “The Staycation, much like the aforementioned Derailed IPA, resists that trend and offers a well-balanced, easy-to-drink beer. One of my favorite summer evening activities is drinking a Staycation on the Briarwood patio after a round of golf. It is also a treat to drink one while listening to a singer-songwriter sing their heart out while strumming the guitar.”
Suggested order: Staycation IPA
With the summer in full swing, now is the perfect time to enjoy a cold one at one of our amazing local breweries. Use this brewery map, to easily track down your favorite ales in Billings. Remember to drink responsibly!