I love going to breweries and drinking the beer that was made on site. To explain this to a non-beer enthusiast, a similar experience would be going to a bakery and eating a fresh pastry while it is still warm and chatting with the baker while you are there. The pastry is fresh and it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and at the same time you make a connection with the person that just put a smile on your face. Similarly, at breweries, you can see all the equipment used to make your favorite beverage and get to chat with people well versed in beer. If you do not get to talk to a brewer, the servers in the tap room are generally heavily engaged in the beer world and they will fully understand your beer enthusiasm.
Breweries are not the only destination for beer enthusiasts however. Restaurants, taprooms and bars that serve uncommon beer are other perfectly acceptable places for the beer connoisseurs to delve into their passion. Not so amazingly, there are definite advantages to going to places that serve more than one brewery’s beer. If you are a beer enthusiast like I am, it is great to be able to compare beers from different breweries in one setting. I have a pretty good palate memory, but it dwindles as I drive from one brewery to another, especially if the breweries are several hours apart. The hours of operation are also important in the equation of beer tasting, especially if you work the same hours that your favorite brewery is open. Well, as it turns out, the Brass Tap at 85 Treeline Road in Kalispell, MT, is only a few minutes away from where I live, and it is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM Sunday through Thursday and from 11:00 AM to Midnight on Friday and Saturday. For me this gives it the makings for my beer research go-to place, and if I discover a beer I really like, I will most likely make a trip to the brewery that made said beer to see what else they have to offer and also to experience the atmosphere where the beer is made.
Being curious, I reached out to people I know and asked for some contact information about the Brass Tap coming to Kalispell. OK, to be honest it was dumb luck. I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to find a contact for the Brass Tap and my friend said, “Well I know the General Manager, would you like to talk to him?” I of course said yes and humbly said thank you. So after a few phone calls, I sat down with Brad Helding, Cicerone® Program Certified Beer Server, Certified Specialist of Wine, by Wine Educators of America, Registered Sommelier by Court of Master Sommeliers and General Manager of the Kalispell Brass Tap. I soon discovered that all of my questions were answered in the best possible way for a truly great beer experience. What I mean by this is that the Brass tap treats the beer it serves and the patrons that consume it exactly correctly from a beer consumer’s perspective. All of the staff is well trained in beer styles and how to treat and serve beer. The staff is even required to sample each beer that comes in so that they can relay its characteristics to the patrons. The beer is served in the correct glass style and each keg of beer is individually carbonated with the correct volumes of CO2 or Nitrogen Beer Gas that is determined mainly by the brewer, but also by the style of beer. This also means that they have to push each keg of beer with a pressure that corresponds with the internal keg pressure so as to pour with a perfect head and have little waste. While this is not a new idea it is certainly an important aspect for beer enthusiasts and rare among serving establishments. As you will read in later reports, the amount of carbonation in a beer greatly affects the flavor and mouth feel of the beer.
They also pre-rinse each glass before they fill it with beer. This might seem unnecessary, but humor me if you will while I explain the importance. If you pour beer that is about 36 degrees Fahrenheit into a glass that is room temperature it foams like crazy and the server has to waste a lot of beer. Sure, you the consumer gets his or her money’s worth, but the keg runs out faster and nobody wins except for maybe the brewing company and distributor. Now imagine the water that is used to rinse the glass is also at 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Well at the Brass Tap in Kalispell, it is just that and the water chills the glass allowing for a perfect pour without waste.
The Brass Tap in Kalispell has 59 beer handles, 5 of which are Nitro pushed. Yes 59 is an odd number, but that is because the 60th tap is used to fill growlers with CO2 before they are filled with beer. CO2 is slightly heavier than air so it stays in the growler until it gets pushed out by the beer allowing for an oxygen free environment for the beer to live in until you open it. Again, this is to give the consumer the best beer experience. They also have about 100 choices in cans and bottles.
At the Brass Tap in Kalispell you will find 17 monitors playing sports and music is played on an excellent sound system, but not too loudly so that you can have a conversation with those around you. From time to time they will also have live music performed by local bands. The emphasis here is on local.
So what sets Brass Tap apart from restaurants and other places that serve beer? Aside from their care of beer, it’s the beer education that the patrons can receive. If you want proof, head on to their website, www.brasstapbeerbar.com/kalispell and hover on the “Beerology” link and click the “Beer 101” link. If you do you will find a wealth of information as I did about beer glasses, styles of beer and even a glossary that tells the story of how beer is made. The Brass Tap truly cares about their patron’s beer experience.
As for food, they serve pub food such as burgers, wings, tacos and fresh pretzels which always pair well with beer. They also have happy hour servings.
They have wine also for the non-beer drinkers. Yes, I did say wine, but before you get upset let me explain a neat consequence of bringing a wine person to a beer place. Example: The spouse of a wine person orders a beer that he has never tried before, let us say a porter. The spouse then says, “Hey, you need to try this.” The wine drinker tries the beer and exclaims, “I never knew beer could taste like this! Wow!” and thus a convert is born. There are so many different tastes that beer can have that surely everyone can find something they like.
So what styles will they have on tap? They will have the usual suspects on tap like hefeweizens, stouts, porters and IPAs, but they will also have sours, lambics, saisons, and other more obscure styles of beer. You name it and they will most likely have it at some point. The beers on tap will rotate constantly and they will do their best to keep their website up-to-date with the current offerings. Plus, you can always stop in or call. To add to the fun they will be carrying a few special occasion beers and a couple legacy beers. The legacy beers are put away for multiple years by Brass Tap to then be opened at a later date. Brass Tap also would love to hear from all of their patrons as to which styles of beer to carry and from which breweries the beers should come.
After the interview with Brad he introduced me to the owners, Sean Andrachick, Cicerone® Program Certified Beer Server and Sandra Andrachick, Cicerone® Program Certified Beer Server who are both enthusiastic about beer and their new business. They want their business not only to succeed, but also for their patrons to have truly a world class beer experience. At the end of the interview I thanked them for taking so much time with me and Sean said, “Hey, I love talking about beer”. What better line to end this story with than “Hey, I love talking about beer”.