Ron Kalvig is no stranger to homebrews. He has been crafting his own beer for 15 years. But stirring up a batch in the kitchen is vastly different from making 10 barrels of beer in a brand new, sparkling tap room.
Yet, that is exactly what Kalvig is doing.
“It’s a homebrewer’s dream to get it to this level,” he said as he sat in the middle of the soon-to-open Canyon Creek Brewery at 3060 Gabel Road.
The dream started the move to reality more than four years ago. But it was not until private investors came on board, along with financing help from First Interstate Bank, that Kalvig knew it was the right time to make the jump into entrepreneurship.
“We started getting serious about two years ago but couldn’t find anything downtown that fit the scope of what we wanted,” Kalvig said. “We found this lot through an ad in The Billings Gazette.
It was perfect — already zoned commercial with no restrictions and lots of space.
Brewing up a plan
Kalvig and his partners had also done their homework by talking with other local microbrewery owners, most of whom are friends. They asked for input and insight.
They next looked to architect Scott Atwood for guidance. Atwood is no stranger to brew houses. He worked on both Himmelberger Brewery and Überbrew in the downtown district.
“When they came to me, they already had a well-thought-out plan,” Atwood noted. “I had to add some code adjustments but Ron knew they did not want a lot of flash — just a basic facility with room to expand the business.”
The facility with 6,264 square feet includes a brewing room, an ample seating area, spacious bathrooms, a utilitarian office and the barley storage room. The two outdoor patio areas add another 3,100 square feet during warmer months.
The design allows Kalvig to cordon off areas, including one of the patios, for private parties. With pub-style tables and two sections of bar seating, Canyon Creek Brewery can accommodate 210 customers inside. The patios can be accessed via glass, garage-style doors and include a built-in fire pit with native rocks arranged for convenient seating.
Simple & green
The building itself is extremely energy efficient.
“The owners were very sensible in the mechanical selections,” said Atwood. “For example, the in-floor radiant heat (from boilers) was a bit pricey, but it will serve them well over time.”
He also noted that the majority of the building and the roof is composed of triple-laminated structural insulated panels that are highly energy efficient and a great value.
Alvin Stadel, co-owner of Stadel/Harsha Construction, with more than 36 years of experience in commercial and residential building and remodeling, served as general contractor on the project. Kalvig noted that although all three bids were very close in costs, he had a prior experience with Stadel so his company was the logical choice.
Construction began in late March but was frequently held up by weather. While last spring’s frequent rains were a boon to agriculture, not so for those in construction.
“You can’t fight Mother Nature,” Stadel said, referring to the Canyon Creek Brewery’s setbacks.
We had three or four heavy rains that set us back and made gumbo on the site that no one could safely work, Stadel added. Then, while setting walls, a sudden micro-burst knocked down a wall section and sent workers scurrying for shelter, further delaying the project.
Despite the setbacks, Kalvig did not doubt.
“Stadel/Harsha was a good choice,” he said. “You can’t blame the delayed schedule on them.”
He also appreciates that Stadel employed about 90 percent of his sub-contractors from the Billings area.
“I was a bit apprehensive because I had not worked with these subs before, but that was a waste. They were excellent and I would work with each one of them again,” Stadel said. “I’m pretty proud of the whole project—we all worked together and made it happen.”
West End Cheers
Although the official Opening Day will be determined by inspectors and permits, Kalvig is confident that Canyon Creek Brewery will succeed, and like any true entrepreneur, he has one eye on the future.
“We want to create our own deal,” he said. “The West End doesn’t have anything like this, so we took the opportunity. “
Canyon Creek will start brewing the typical lineup of ales, hefeweizens, IPAs and stouts and then move into pilsners, lagers and Scottish ales. Although they will sell via the tasting room and growlers, Kalvig noted that their design allows for expansion into canning, bottling and shipping.
Kalvig, who is a lifelong resident of Billings, knows most of the other local brewers, and emphasized that this is great time to be in Billings with the variety of beer-tasting houses.
Wearing a big smile, he said, “Each brew house has its own following, its own niche. This is mine.”