406 Brewing Company: Craft Beer Driven By Fans

Tucked between I-90 and the Gallatin County Fairgrounds in a redeveloping former industrial area sits 406 Brewing Co., one of Montana’s newest breweries.  It opened in May 2011at 101 East Oak St. in Bozeman, MT and it’s not a stretch to suggest it’s Montana’s most experimental brewery.  It seems brewer/owner Matt Muth enjoys switching things up on a frequent basis and is attracting a cadre of fans who never know what they’re going to get.  Eight months after opening, 406 still doesn’t have a flagship beer.  It’s the customers who are driving the decisions behind what might become the regular standards, but for now, you’re as likely to find a brown porter as a double black ipa as a strong pale ale.

Take the Session #5 Pale Ale, for example. It’s their fifth attempt at a session ale, a light, easy drinking 4.0% brew with some good hop bitterness that won’t weigh you down.  But chances are, by the time you’re reading this, they’re on to #6.

Step through the heavy wood doors into this modern industrial space and you’ll find huge chunks of wood forming the bar stools and the bar itself.  It’s all reclaimed wood, including beams from a nearby lumber warehouse. The foot rest around the main bar is a heavy, old chain used in logging operations. Big sunny windows in front let natural light fill the space.  Large windows between the tap room and the brewery space let you check out the brewing operation.

On my short visit in mid-January, 406 had five beers on tap: Double Black IPA, 9%; Snowy Owl Scotch Ale,  6.2%; C-4 Strong Pale Ale, 6.0%; Session #5 Pale Ale, 4.0%; and Red Hop Imperial Red Ale, 8%.  The double black ipa had great piney hop bitterness with some dark chocolate flavors and fairly apparent alcohol.  The snowy owl scotch ale had smooth caramel flavors dominating the profile, as all good scotch ales do, with a touch of bitterness in the finish.  

406 Brewing is suffering the same problem many of Montana’s craft breweries are experiencing. They can’t keep up with the demand. It’s a great problem to have, though patrons’ growlers tend to leave empty as brewers try to keep the taps flowing for visitors to the tap rooms. Perhaps we just need more craft beer in Montana?