It seems so simple.

Grab a bottle opener or your index finger, flip the top, tilt back your head and pour.

But wait. That’s not how you drink a craft beer. It’s best from the keg. And you should know that any beer tastes better out of a glass.

But do know what beer your wife might like to try since she prefers wine? Or how about getting that extra foam off your beer?

In preparation for the Montana Brews & BBQs, which is set for Saturday at Lakeside at MetraPark, The Gazette went directly to the source — local brew masters to provide a primer for beer sampling. Since the event runs from 1 to 10 p.m. and features 70 Montana-brewed keg beers, wines, meads and handcrafted sodas, local brew masters offered their advice to getting the most out of the festival. You might start by picking up a brochure with a listing of all the breweries and their wares.

Pace yourself

Mike Uhrich, owner and brewer at Carter’s Brewing, likes to remind participants that this isn’t a college frat party. You can’t sample all 70 brews and wines available Saturday so pick a few that interest you and start there. You can always go back for another glass.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Uhrich said.

Admission is free to the beer festival. To sample beers, you pay $20 for a glass and eight tokens. Couples can pay $30 for two glasses and 10 tokens they can share. Beer glasses are 7 ounces, and wine glasses are 3. Proceeds benefit Family Tree Child Abuse Prevention.

Mike Solberg, of Fat Jack’s in Laurel, said he has learned over the past couple of years that drinking beer as fast as possible, like he did in college, is not the answer.

“When you actually take a drink, inhale through your nose while you are drinking it. Most people forget that smell is 40 percent of your taste,” Solberg said. “Instead of drinking it because it’s there, drink it and enjoy the flavor.”

Go to the source

And don’t be afraid to talk to the brew masters at their booths. They live to talk about brewing and beer, said Evan Taylor, of Montana Brewing Co.

“The beer fest is a great introduction and a good place to try different beers,” Taylor said. “My questions center around where the establishment is at so that if I’m interested in the beer, I’ll stop at their place next time I’m in say Great Falls.”

Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Try a bottle of water in between brews. And enjoy the live music by the Jared Stewart Band and Black Velvet Undercover Band. There will also be motorcycle stunt shows.

Then get back to the beer.

Seasonal beers are good to sample whenever they are available because they have a short life.

“I have two rules of thumb when I go out,” said Mark Hastings, head brewer at Uberbrew. “I drink local and always look for a seasonal rotating handle. That’s why I like going to Carter’s. They always have something new. I want to try the coconut porter they have now.”


Along with the expanded varieties of beer available at the Montana Brews & BBQs, organizers Mark and Beau Hedin increased the food selections to include 30 different items from seafood to barbecue to eggrolls.

Participants have the added pleasure of experimenting with pairing food with the right beer.

“Everybody has their own guidelines, but ultimately the palette is most important,” Hastings said. “Generally, barbecued food has rich flavors. Because the event is outside and it will be warm, I would recommend a foil to the bbq. Anything like light lagers, light ales or pale ales and IPAs. They can stand up to the fat and help cleanse the palette a bit. There might also be some great dark beers, though, that would be complimentary instead of foils.”

Don’t tax taste buds

Always start with the lighter beers and go dark. That way, your palate won’t be bombarded with hoppy beers that overwhelm the taste buds so you can’t enjoy the lighter ales, Solberg said.

“I would have them start out with a nice crisp wheat beer to cool you off, but not push you over,” Solberg said. “To end the night, try something heavier. We have a Scotch ale that is a good finishing beer.”

If you are a wine drinker trying out beer at the festival, look for beer with fruit in it. Like wine, it is spontaneously fermented, Hastings said.

Get too much foam on your beer? A glass of beer should have a half-inch to an inch of foam on top. But if there’s more, you could use your finger to push it off. Or try this suggestion from Solberg.

“Run your finger across your forehead and then dip it in your glass of beer. The oils will diminish the foam. Don’t try it if you’re wearing makeup, though.”



Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.