2014 Marathon Beer Run and Missoula Area Beer Guide

A huge welcome goes out to the thousands of runners headed to Missoula this week to take part in the Missoula Marathon weekend. The races follow an exceptional course and Missoula truly turns it in to a community event, thanks to the hard work of Run Wild Missoula and hundreds of volunteers. As always, there’s a free Big Sky Brewing Co. beer waiting at the finish, which just might be a little more welcome this year with the predicted temperatures.

The festivities get started with the Missoula Marathon Beer Run on Friday evening, followed by the Missoula 5K and Race Expo on Saturday, and the Half and Full Marathons on Sunday morning. More than 6,500 runners are expected across all three races.

Hundreds of them are again expected to kick off the weekend with the Beer Run which takes place at 6:00 p.m. at the Iron Horse Bar and Grill, 501 N. Higgins Ave. Questionable beer run guides, myself included, will lead runners on three or five mile courses to stretch the legs out a bit.  Afterward, stick around for plenty of beer and food at the Iron Horse and the chance to meet runners from around the world.

The beer run is not the only way to take in Missoula’s robust craft beer scene.  Due to a bummer of an injury that has me missing the race for the first time in five years, I’ve got time to put together a guide to get you started.

Missoula Breweries

Missoula is home to four breweries, with several more under construction or in progress.  Bayern Brewing, 1507 Montana St., became Montana’s first craft brewery in 1987 and remains the only German brewery in the Rocky Mountains.

Just a short hop from Missoula’s airport is Big Sky Brewing, 5417 Trumpeter Way, Montana’s largest, maker of the well known Moose Drool Brown Ale, and long-time sponsor of the Missoula Marathon.  Stop by for some free samples and browse their extensive selection of Big Sky logo gear.  They don’t sell pints, but will readily fill your growler with any of their fine selections.

KettleHouse Brewing offers up two very different locations to check out, the iconic south side K-hole, 602 Myrtle St., so named for its . . . um. . . eclectic seating options and austere surroundings, and it’s Northside location, 313 N 1st St W, with its comfortable brick and wood interior of a converted warehouse along the railroad tracks. 

The newest addition to Missoula, though not for long, is Draught Works Brewery, 915 Toole Ave.  It, too, is located in a converted warehouse with a modern industrial feel and quite possibly the best outdoor patio space in Missoula. It’s a great spot to relax after the race and be sure to grab some food from the Burns Street Bistro food truck frequently parked outside.

Just 8 miles south of Missoula you’ll find the brand new Lolo Peak Brewery which opened only a week ago. 

By the time you come back for next year’s race there may very well be three more open in Missoula. 

Missoula Beer-centric Bars and Restaurants

Nearby Flathead Lake is home to two breweries which have tap rooms/restaurants in Missoula.  Tamarack Brewing Company (Lakeside, MT), 231 W Front St., is multifaceted with a sports bar downstairs and a more family-centric area upstairs.  Flathead Lake Brewing Company (Bigfork, MT), 424 N Higgins Ave., also has two distinct areas with a full service restaurant on the first floor and a bar with pub food on the second.

The Rhino Bar, 158 Ryman St., is well known around Montana for its 50 tap handles containing many from Montana and far beyond.  Don’t let the gruff exterior dissuade you.  Head on in, pull up a bar stool at this quintessential Montana bar and get ready to be entertained by watching some of Missoula’s best wildlife. 

For some finer dining, Caffe Dolce, 500 Brooks St., and the Red Bird Wine Bar, 111 N Higgins Ave., offer small, but carefully selected tap selections and interesting bottle choices to pair with excellent food at reasonable prices. Caffe Dolce has a fantastic patio to enjoy the great Missoula summer evenings. 

Missoula Bottle Shops

Need a six-pack of some Montana made beer or a mix-sixer of beers from around the world?  Summer Sun Garden and Brew, 838 W Spruce St., boasts Missoula’s best selection and is a very short walk from Draught Works Brewery.  Worden’s Market, 451 N Higgins Ave., also has a very nice selection as do Pattee Creek Market, 704 SW Higgins Ave., Orange Street Food Farm, 701 S Orange St., and Good Food Store, 1600 S 3rd St W. 

Missoula Brewery Tours

If you have a little more time, Missoula is home to three brewery tour companies ready to transport you around Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley to show off our beer culture.

Want a great story to tell the friends back home?  Arrange for a tour on the Thirst Gear Pedal Pub, a crazy looking 15-passenger pedal powered bike that will get you from brewery to brewery in style. If riding along with a knowledgeable designated driver is more your style, Montana Brewery Tours and Tap Room Tours offer beer lovers fun, educational, customizable trips and behind the scenes access to the area’s breweries.

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