September 27th, 2012 6:41 pm | by JOHN LOCANTHI Food & Drink | Posted In: The President of Beers

President of Beers: #16

Moose Drool Brown Ale: Big Sky Brewing Co., Missoula, Montana

We're drinking the flagship craft beer from every state in the Union, counting down from 50-1, to find which is home to the President of Beers.

#16 Moose Drool Brown Ale: Big Sky Brewing Co., Missoula, Montana

State: Montana is another one of those rugged western states with the north end of the Rockies and a seemingly endless skyline in the horizon–hence the nickname “Big Sky Country.” It’s also one of the last states where the Fred Meyers grocery stores have hitchin’ posts for horses. In 2012, Montana jumped to second place nationally in capita per breweries. Much like first place Vermont, their standing is helped by no one living in the state. But 32 breweries is a respectable amount for any state.

Brewery: The tale of Big Sky begins with a group of college boys at the University of Montana talking about starting up a brewery. They produced and starred in a local cable access program called “Beer Talk” and Bjorn Nabozney—a name that just screams beer—dedicated his senior project to a business plan for a brewery. Big Sky Brewing Co. became a reality in 1995 and is one of the 50 largest craft breweries today.

Beer: The second beer brewed by Big Sky back in 1995, Moose Drool bills itself as one of the nation’s most drinkable dark beers.

Difficulty of Obtaining in Oregon: Easy. Your chain grocery store has it.

Rating: 69.5

PHOTO: Cameron Browne

Malts, malts, malts, and malts. Moose Drool is brewed with four malts, and it comes equipped with a malty aroma, a malty nose, and a malty aftertaste. It pours a thick, dark amberish brown. It’s a testament to proper hopping that Moose Drool can be this malty without descending into the malaise of sweetness. It’s bitter, especially in the aftertaste. And, y’know, malts. 

As previously mentioned, Montana has a lot of breweries for its small population, but that hasn’t prevented the state from adopting some screwy arcane laws controlling beer, especially taprooms.

Firstly, taprooms cannot sell beer after 8 pm. Also, no person can have more than 48 oz of beer in a day at a taproom, meaning no growler fills so you can only have four beers then get a growler to go. And if a brewery produces over 10,000 barrels of beer a year, it is no longer allowed to have an on-premise taproom. That’s why Big Sky Brewing, the largest brewery in all of Montana, does not even have a taproom (though it does offer tasters and growler fills to go).

“What the fuck?!?” you might ask yourself. There really isn’t a good explanation for these laws, but Montana did change the law to allow the brewing of beer with greater than 8 percent ABV just three years ago. Maybe sanity will eventually take hold of the taproom laws.

Taprooms are vital to the relationship between a brewery and its customers. Bars will usually stick to the most popular or famous beer from a brewery. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and even bottle shops can only keep so many beers in stock. Not every brewery can bottle or can their product. Taprooms give people a chance to try a brewery’s entire catalog. Hell, Rogue’s Brewers on the Bay in Newport single-handedly redeemed the brewery in the eyes of one of our staffers with its 40 beers on tap.

Taprooms may be fully legal in Montana–as long as the brewery isn’t too big–but to hold them back like this can only hurt the state’s brewing industry as it expands.

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