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Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co. is expanding into Billings with a hard-cider mill and pub on Montana Avenue.

Sam Hoffmann, owner of Red Lodge Ales, was on site Wednesday looking over the apple press and vats for fermenting cider. Last Chance Cider Mill and Pub will employ a staff of 10 to 12 people and open in the former United Glass building at 2203 Montana Ave.

The cider house operation joins several craft breweries and tap rooms on Montana Avenue, including Uberbrew, Carters, Angry Hanks and Thirsty Street. Hoffmann hopes to open at least the pub in September.

The 100-year-old building is being extensively renovated, with many of the improvements being made by the landlord who did not wish to be named. Hoffmann said the landlord purchased the building with the intent of restoring it. Hoffmann signed the lease on the 10,000-square-foot warehouse early this year, and renovation soon began, including stripping white paint to expose the original brick and laying a new concrete floor.

An old United Glass sign was leaning against a wall Wednesday, and Hoffmann said he hopes to use it somehow in the interior decor. Plans include adding a patio to the north side of the building, which was a loading dock.

The pub may open earlier than the production side of the hard-cider operation, Hoffmann said. The pub will be on the Montana Avenue side of the building and feature a menu put together by chef Jason Corbridge, and offer wine and Red Lodge Ales beer.

Hoffmann, who opened Red Lodge Ales in 1998, plans to make six to 12 different ciders, using recipes he’s been working on for the past 10 years.

“I prefer beer over cider,” Hoffmann said. “But I love the whole aspect of going from orchard to press.”

Hoffmann has been touring orchards throughout the area and planted trees on his 27-acre place near Red Lodge. He’ll also use apples grown in Fromberg by John Ross. That’s where the name of the new Billings business comes from, an irrigation ditch on the Fromberg apple orchard, which gets water from Rock Creek, is called Last Chance Ditch.

There are other hard-cider pubs in Montana, including the Lockhorn Cider House in Bozeman, but Hoffmann believes he may be the first in Montana to include the whole operation from growing apples to pressing and fermenting the apple cider.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.