Wibaux to Chief Mountain
From west to east and back again, 28 breweries, 15+ days.
Angry Hanks Brewing
Beaver Creek Brewery
Big Sky Brewing
Bitter Root Brewing
Blackfoot River Brewing
Great Falls, MT
Draught Works Brewing
Fat Jack's Tap Room
Flathead Lake Brewing
Woods Bay, MT
Great Northern Brewing
Kettle House Brewing
Lewis & Clark Brewing
Lone Peak Brewing
Big Sky, MT
Madison River Brewing
Missouri Breaks Brewing
Wolf Point, MT
Montana Brewing Company
Red Lodge Ales
Red Lodge, MT
Yellowstone Valley Brewing
View Montana's Grand Brewery Loop in a larger map
You can obviously start and finish the Grand Loop Brewery Trail anywhere along the route, but I've started in Montana's main beertown, Missoula, and followed the loop in a clockwise direction.
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On the walking tour, you can see Missoula's newest brewery, Draught Works, as well as both KettleHouse locations, and the satellite locations for Flathead Lake and Tamarack. Go to the Missoula Brewery Trail for details on taking the walking tour.
Before driving to Polson on 1-90 and U.S. 93 the next morning, you'll have time to see some of the local attractions such as the Elk Country Visitor Center or the Smokejumper's Visitor Center. If you prefer a slower, more scenic route to Polson, turn west (left) at Ravalli onto U.S. Highway 200 and make a stop at the National Bison Range. From U.S. 200, turn north (right) on U.S. Highway 212 just before Dixon and go to Moiese where you'll find the entrance to the National Bison Range. After seeing the range, get back on U.S. 212 and head north to Charlo and get back on U.S. 93 at the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. Once back on U.S. 93, head north to Polson and Glacier Brewing. If a pizza dinner sounds good, you can order it at Glacier's spacious taproom.
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After a leisurely morning in Polson, where you'll have time to check out the Miracle of America Museumor the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum, head north on U.S. 93 to Lakeside. You'll find The Rack on your left at the intersection with the road up to the Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. The Rack is two businesses in the same building--Tamarack Brewing and Tamarack Alehouse and Grill. You can enjoy both some mighty fine microbrew and a great lunch at The Rack.
After lunch, drive U.S. 93 six more miles north to the intersection with State Highway 208/82. Turn east (right) here and then, seven miles later, south (right) on State Highway 35. Go eight miles, through Bigfork, to find your next brewery stop, Flathead Lake Brewing, on your left in Woods Bay on State Highway 35.
After a late afternoon visit to the tasting room (where you can also get some tasty pub fare), jump back on Montana Highway 35 and head north, through Bigfork to Kalispell, where you can either take U.S.2/Montana Highway 40 or U.S. 93 to Whitefish. If you need to stop at some big box stores, take U.S. 93. If you want a faster route take U.S. 2/Montana Highway 40.
After checking into a Whitefish motel, before or after dinner, go to Great Northern Brewing, which also has a beer and wine license, so it stays open "until it closes," usually around midnight. You can get a great view of Big Mountain and the Whitefish Mountain Resort from the taproom, which is called Black Star Draught House. You can also walk from the taproom to many fine restaurants in historic downtown Whitefish.
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Roll out early in the morning because you have a big day (or days) ahead of you, depending on how much time you want to spend enjoying Glacier National Park. If you want to stay an extra night or two in Glacier, which would be a great plan, try for a room at one of the parks historic lodges by checking www.glacierparkinc.com.
From Whitefish, head east on State Highway 40 and then U.S. 2 at Columbia Falls onto Glacier National Park, take a trip over Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway, then continue down to the east side of the park, all through the best scenery in the world, to St. Mary. If you're only spending a day in the park, turn south (right) on U.S. Highway 89 and head for Browning. If you have time and need a break, stop at the Museum of the Plains Indian on the western edge of town.
Go through Browning on U.S 89 (combined with U.S. 2) and turn right (south) on U.S 89 a few miles east of town. Stay on U.S. 89, all the way through Choteau and Fairfield to Great Falls, until you find one of Montana's newest breweries, Bowser Brewing. It is easy to find, right on Montana's busiest street, 10th Avenue South. Stay in Great Falls that night.
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You'll have an hour or two to burn in the morning before heading for your next brewery, and a good choice for spending them would be a visit to the C.M. Russell Museum or the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Then, drive 21 miles (still on U.S. 89) over to the Harvest Moon Brewery in Belt, which has limited hours for its taproom--10 am to 4 pm, weekdays only. After sampling some of Harvest Moon's famous brews, such as Beltian White or Pig's Ass Porter, get back on U.S. 89 and head for Wolf Point to see another of Montana's newest and most remote breweries, Missouri Breaks Brewing.
It's a six-hour drive from Belt to Wolf Point through some of the most beautiful prairie scenery left in the world, but don't spend too much time enjoying it. You need to get to Wolf Point before the town's biggest, best, and only brewery closes at 8 pm. Note that the Missouri Breaks Brewery is closed on Sunday and Monday, so plan accordingly.
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Early the next morning (after 7 am), you can go back to Missouri Breaks Brewery for some more quality brew of the espresso variety, a latté, mocha or cappuccino. Missouri Breaks is the only brewery in Montana that doubles as a coffee shop, although it's also closed on Sunday and Monday and doesn't open until 9 am on Saturday.
Sometime around mid-day, hit the road again, heading south on Montana 13 to Circle and over to U.S. Hwy. 200S to Glendive. Go another half-hour east on I-94 to Wibaux, home of Montana's most remote and easternmost brewery, Beaver Creek Brewing, which is a stone's throw away from North Dakota.
The Beaver Creek taproom opens at 4 pm, but is closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so again, plan accordingly. Check into the Beaver Creek Inn and Suites before heading to the taproom for some great craft beer and a scrumptious beer brat (or two) for dinner while being treated to the universally loved aroma of fresh beer bread, baked daily at the brewery.
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In the morning, jump on 1-94 and head west to Montana's largest city, Billings. You might have a few extra hours that afternoon, so after you grab a downtown motel room and before you start enjoying the Billings Brewery District, consider checking out the Western Heritage Center, Yellowstone Art Museum or ZooMontana, the only zoo in Montana, before parking the car and taking the Billings Brewery Trail on foot.
On this walking tour, you can visit four craft breweries (Angry Hank's Brewery, Carter's Brewing, Montana Brewing, and Yellowstone Valley Brewing) all along a mile-long stroll through Downtown Billings. If this is too much fun for one night, you can stay two nights in Billings and enjoy what could start rivaling Missoula for the honor of being Montana's BeerTown. (Check details at the Billings Brewery Trail on this website.)
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Spend the next morning visiting the Billings attractions you missed the previous day before heading to Laurel, home of Fat Jack's, one of Montana's newest breweries (opened in 2010). After enjoying a brew at Fat Jack's, go south on U.S. Hwy. 212 to Red Lodge. Check into a motel and head for Sam's Taproom at Red Lodge Ales for both some fine Montana-made craft beer and pub fare for dinner.
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Leave early the next morning, so you can thoroughly enjoy what's often referred to as the Most Beautiful Road in America as you go over Beartooth Pass and down to Yellowstone National Park. Now, the big decision--how many days do you spend enjoying the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness or Yellowstone Park before getting back on the Montana Brewery Trail. You can stay at Cooke City or Silver Gate, both gateway communities a few miles outside the Northeast Entrance to the park, in one of the many accommodations options in the park, or at West Yellowstone, another gateway community at the West Entrance, or all three. For park accommodations, plan ahead to ensure a room at the inn. (For park reservations, go to www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.)
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After seeing America's first and probably most famous national park, drive north on U.S. 191 out of West Yellowstone to Big Sky, home of the Lone Peak Brewery. If you want pub fare for dinner, you can find it right at the brewery. If not, head for one of the fine dinning establishments in the Big Sky area. Unless you're in a hurry, stay in Big Sky that night and enjoy hiking or fishing in the area. You could, however, cut a day off the trip by continuing north the same day and staying in Bozeman or Livingston.
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Spend the next morning enjoying more hiking, fishing or paddling or stop at the gift shops in Big Sky before continuing north on U.S. 191 through the gorgeous Gallatin Canyon to Belgrade to visit Madison River Brewing, home of the fly-fishing beers.
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You can either have lunch in Livingston or hold out for the Wilsa Bar & Café in the little ranching town of Wilsall, which has several of Montana's best microbrews on tap. Then, head for Helena. The trip from Livingston to Helena (on I-90, U.S, 89 and U.S. 12) wanders through more of the "real Montana," lined with fabulous scenery and through small, remote, seldom-visited ranching communities
Helena is the home of two of Montana's oldest, but both recently expanded, breweries, Blackfoot River Brewing and Lewis and Clark Brewing. Get a motel room and visit both before having a late dinner. I suggest visiting Lewis and Clark first, so you can have dinner at one of Downtown Helena's fine restaurants, many less than a three-block walk from the Blackfoot River taproom.
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You'll have some time to kill in the morning, so spend a few hours taking a tour of the State Capitol, checking out the Montana Historical Society Museum, or shopping on Helena's Last Chance Gulch Walking Mall before heading south on I-15 to Butte. You might also want to leave enough time to check out the World Museum of Mining in Butte before going to Quarry Brewing, where they really dig beer, and enjoying a dinner in Uptown Butte. Stay in Butte that night.
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In the morning, get on I-15 and head toward Dillon, but before you get there, take a right (west) at Divide onto Montana 43, which follows the famous Big Hole River, a world-renown trout stream, through more remote "real Montana" scenery.
You'll probably have time for a stop at the Big Hole National Battlefield, where the Nez Perce fought off a surprise nocturnal attack by the U.S. Army during their epic flight.
When you reach the junction with U.S. 93, turn north (right) and head up to Hamilton for lunch at Brewer's Grill and a sample or two of the Last Best Brew produced by Bitter Root Brewing, both in the same building.
(For the more adventurous traveler, perhaps the most scenic route would be driving west on I-90 and I-15 until you can turn on State Highway 1 to Anaconda. Stay on Highway 1 until you turn west (left) on State Highway 38 just past massive Georgetown Lake and continue until you hit Hamilton. A very scenic route, but partly on a major, unpaved road. If this isn't your thing, you might want to take the Big Hole River route, which might be just as scenic.)
Stay in Hamilton that night.
To get from Hamilton to Missoula, take the East Side Highway instead of U.S 93. It leaves Hamilton right from BitterRoot Brewery and goes directly to Stevensville, where you'll find one of Montana's newest breweries, Blacksmith Brewing, on main street of Montana's oldest community. If you have extra time, spend it visiting Fort Owen State Park and St. Mary's Mission, "where Montana began," right there in Stevensville.
After checking out Blacksmith Brewing, jump back on U.S. 93 and drive north back to Missoula where you can celebrate the completion of the Montana's Grand Brewery Loop with visits to the two Missoula craft breweries you missed on the day you started, Bayern Brewing and Big Sky Brewing. Big Sky Brewing is Montana's largest brewery and maker of the state's most famous beer, Moose Drool.
Your safety is important to us. Please drink responsibly. If you are drinking alcholol, please be certain to include a designated sober driver; do not drink and drive. It is against the law to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle when blood alcohol content level is at .08% or more.