Montana Brews & BBQs

Montana Brews and BBQ organizers meet by the MetraPark pond in preparation for their upcoming event. They are, from left, Mike Uhrich, Devin Hedin, Paul Morup, Ron Kalvig and, seated, Mike Fleming of the Breakfast Exchange Club.

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff

Can a beer a day keep the doctor away?

There is growing research that beer is actually good for you. Harvard researchers have found that moderate beer drinking is better than wine or cocktails in helping to prevent high blood pressure.

And there’s more. Italian researchers have found that moderate beer drinking lowers the risk of heart disease by 42 percent. Non-drinkers don’t get the same benefit.

The research bodes well for Montana’s thriving craft beer industry, which has surged in recent years to include 48 breweries, according to the Montana Brewers Association.

You can celebrate beer culture on Saturday at Lakeside at MetraPark. Montana Brews & BBQs runs from 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday. It’s free to enter, but beer samples are $2 each.

The festival, now in its fifth year, continues evolving to meet the needs of patrons. This year, the number of food trucks has grown from four the first year to 15 this year. You

can get everything from deep-fried Twinkies and bacon-wrapped meatballs to gourmet hot dogs from Fanelli’s Finest, an enterprise based in tiny Ingomar.

And, of course, there will be beer — lots of beer. And, it’s all served from kegs. Twenty-six brewers will offer up more than 70 varieties of beer. There will also be hard cider available.

“We’re still purists. We think beer should be served in its purist form, which is from the kegs,” said organizer Mark Hedin of Rimrock Promotions.

There will be seasonal beer, like Missoula’s Big Sky Brewing’s Summer Honey, and Billings brewer Uberbrew will bring its Watermelon Cream Ale. And there will be specialty beer, including the Lucky 7 Saison from Carters Brewing, which celebrates its seventh anniversary.

“Our whole goal is for people to come out and try some new beer and then find out about the brewery,” Hedin said. “We like to appeal to the people who are hard-core craft beer people and people who are just curious.”

Part of the proceeds from the festival will go to Family Tree Child Abuse Prevention through the Breakfast Exchange Club. Exchange members will serve as pourers during the festival, but brewers will also be on hand to talk about their beer.

Hedin works with his two sons, Beau and Devin, and his wife Rhonda, to put on the festival in the grassy area surrounding the lake at MetraPark.

Six out of the seven breweries based in Billings are involved in the festival. There will also be brewers from Western Montana, including two from Missoula and Great Northern from Whitefish, which is bringing their Wild Huckleberry Wheat. Cabinet Mountain Brewing in Libby will bring its Yaak Attack IPA and Sidney’s Meadowlark Brewing will bring its Ole Gus and Badlands beer.

“You’re not out there drinking a Bud Light,” Beau Hedin said.

Michael Uhrich from Carter’s Brewing is donating a growler of beer each week to the winner of a free drawing. ZeN will be playing classic beginning at 3 p.m.

Can beer make you healthy and happy? One more study from Britain found that beer drinkers see themselves as more attractive after they’ve had a beer or two. Now that’s just common sense.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.