Poppin’ the Top on Some Great Craft Brews

Text by Mark Baune • Photography by Jim Wells

The hop-obsessed craft beer industry keeps getting better and better. New breweries are popping up across the state and established breweries continue to flood the shelves and taps with new beers from traditional styles to intrepid uses of creative ingredients and techniques. 2016 is already chock-full of new brews garnering loyal followers. The genius to craft brewing is continually finding new ways to showcase hop flavors from both classic and modern varieties. Finding the perfect balance in spirit barrel-aged brews as well as the addition of fruit to any beer continues to be a popular trend amongst breweries as well.

The Front Brewing Co. in Great Falls is no exception. Not too long ago, they purchased the former Sperry’s Market at 600 3rd Ave. S. after reaching brewing capacity at its main site. Quadrupling its production capabilities was the only way to meet the growing demand for its craft beers, particularly the popular Mountain Man Scottish Ale, Keep Cool Creek Blonde Ale and River Water IPA. The newly added 30-barrel system allows them to can and keg for distribution around Great Falls and across the state. The Front also introduced Great Falls to the topless beer can. Commonly referred to as the 360 lid, this novel new vessel is very similar to the pull-tab of a soup can. It was actually developed by Crown Beverage Packaging in partnership with beer giant SABMiller, and was introduced in 2010 at the FIFA World Cup tournament in South Africa. They realized that craft beers in cans with small openings were robbing the senses of the beer’s aroma, a major component of its flavor. To open it, you pull the tab up and then peel the lid away from the can, exposing a 1.75-inch-wide opening – an instant beer cup!

Meanwhile, back at the Front’s main site, head brewer Trever Ziegler is manning the 10-barrel system and trying his hand at some new smaller batch specialty brews. I headed down after work to catch up on the latest brews and once again they have knocked it out of the park. Here is a sampling of what’s new on tap.

Idaho 7 IPA: Guess what? It is made with 7 hops from our sister state, Idaho who is fast becoming a supplier of some very respectable hops. This IPA checks in with a 6.7% ABV and has complex tropical fruit aromas of orange and apricot mesh with hints of black tea-like character and a pleasant fresh herbal bouquet. You definitely need to high tail it down and try this rotator before it’s all gone.

Cereza De Oro: While people close to head brewer, Trever Ziegler, ask why he spends so much time on a Mexican Lager, I know why… It’s just that darn good! Buen trabajo!!! This liquid embodiment of living life to the fullest checks in at 4.7% ABV and is great with or without the lime.

They also have an Oktoberfest that is a must try and the Just Peachy Ale at 5% ABV is a palate pleaser too. It is a very seasonable beer and despite the name, it’s not too fruity.

The Front has many more brews on the menu and seasonals all the time so, stop by and raise a pint to some of the finest brews around Montana.

— Cheers! Beer Man