At the Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill in downtown Billings, customers can smell the fresh apples on press day, and owner Sam Hoffmann is preparing to expand his selection in about two months.
The city’s first cider house opened Nov. 15 at 2203 Montana Ave., the former United Glass building, and serves food, fresh non-alcoholic apple juice, malted cider made in Red Lodge, a pear cider from Oregon and Red Lodge Ales beers.
Hoffmann said he’s awaiting a state winery permit, which will allow him to start making true hard cider on site with apples from Montana, Michigan and other places. Because it’s fruit-based, cider is considered a wine, but malted cider is a blend fermented like beer and permitted under the business’ beer and wine license.
“Part of what I hope to be is one of the guys that brings cider to Montana,” Hoffmann said last week while sipping on a St. Iggy’s, a malted cider with apples sourced from St. Ignatius in western Montana’s Mission Mountains.
Hoffmann has operated Red Lodge Ales in Carbon County for about two decades and has for years wanted to expand into the Billings market and add cider. He estimates it could be a month before he gets his permit, then another month before he’s ready to add as many as four more taps of cider.
Last Chance will serve about 15,000 gallons of cider in 2017, then aim at tripling production the next year, he said.
Hoffmann, a native of the New England states, said he enjoys the cider-making culture, where people with just a few dozen fruit trees can make their own batch and share recipes. Hoffmann has an orchard of about 175 trees outside his Red Lodge home.
Last Chance also serves food prepared by chef Jason Corbridge, founder of the popular Cafe DeCamp restaurant. The pub has about 20 employees.
The hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. The phone number is 406-534-8918.
Native American shop for sale
The owners of the Native American Nations store at 207 N. Broadway in downtown Billings are selling the shop and holding sales to cut down inventory.
According to the store’s website, the owners are retiring and seeking $750,000 for the business. Inventory exceeds $1 million, according to the site.
Daryl Gylten and Feenie Whalen opened Native American Nations in 2008. They sell old tools, clothing, crafts, antique guns and other decor.
• A new coffee shop, Black Dog Coffee, is coming to the Sanctuary Spa complex at 1504 N. 24th St. W. in Billings.
A sign at the strip mall indicates Black Dog will be opening next spring.
Mall celebrates success
Officials at Rimrock Mall celebrated the holidays last week, and the $15 million in improvements made by owner Starwood Retail Group since 2013.
Representatives from Chicago-based Starwood flew to Billings Thursday evening for the gathering, which also attracted dozens of mall workers, other business owners and city officials, including Mayor Tom Hanel.
Starwood bought Rimrock in 2013 and has overseen multiple big renovations, including new spaces for Herberger’s and H&M, a new outdoor facade, new flooring and improvements to common areas.
During that time, the mall has completed renovations for 15 new and existing retailers.
“We look forward to continuing the success we’ve had,” mall manager Devin Hartley told the crowd.
Mall spokesman Daron Olson added that Rimrock hired many local contractors, including Collaborative Design Architects, Swank Enterprises, Thuesen Sprinkler and Landscape and Fischer Commercial Flooring.
The mall also celebrated locally owned businesses and urged shoppers to visit them Saturday. Rimrock has 14 locally owned shops.
Commons 1882 honored
Commons 1882 announced it has been named the Restaurant.com best restaurant in Billings for 2016.
The award is based on reviews at Restaurant.com, a site that evaluates eateries worldwide, and a survey, according to Commons.
Commons is at 404 N. 30th St. in downtown Billings.
Library at Pizza Hut
Pizza Hut is installing a library outside its restaurant at 2636 Belknap Ave. in Billings.
The Little Free Library, shaped like a hut, is aimed at encouraging reading for kids. Customers can take books and drop them off at their pleasure, according to a news release.
The library will open 10 a.m. Wednesday. Officials at Pizza Hut will also give books to Newman Elementary School students to encourage reading.
Haikus from the valley
Farewell to good company
Brought by public funds