If you haven’t noticed, there are approximately 300 million breweries operating in the U.S. Roughly one brewery per person, with that number set to double within the next 12 months as more breweries come online. Okay, that might be an over-estimate of the robust beer scene, but beer is definitely booming. And while certain cities like San Diego and Portland have proclaimed a dominance in the craft beer scene with breweries hitting triple digit numbers, maybe my favorite aspect of the beer boom is that you can now get a good, local beer in Small Town USA. Case in point: Helena, Montana (pop. 29,596). Helena might be the state capital, but the working town typically plays second fiddle to trendier towns like Bozeman and Missoula. It’s no epicenter of hip. No booming metropolis. And yet, on a recent trip to “H-Town,” I did a mini brewery crawl through downtown, and found really good beer in the town’s three breweries. Check out the gallery for more.
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Blackfoot River Brewing is the anchor of Helena's beer scene. The stout is good. The IPA is ridiculously good.
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Blackfoot's taproom is definitely the most popular of the three breweries. It sits at the bottom of a trail system on the edge of downtown and is popular with bikers and runners.
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Blackfoot's beam of vintage cans. That's my kind of art work.
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Blackfoot's head brewer Tim Chisman, ogling the whole cone Eldorado hops he's going to use in their annual Fresh Hop IPA.
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Seriously. Look at those hops.
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One of Montana's weird alcohol laws: You're only allowed to be served 48 ounces of beer at a brewery. You get a card, and the server ticks off your four beers as you go.
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Ten Mile Creek Brewing is the newest brewery in town, with a swanky taproom on Helena's pedestrian mall.
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One of the coolest things I've seen at a brewery: a chalkboard where you can buy a beer for your friends.
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I dig Ten Mile Creek's tap handles. If you get the chance, try the Queen City Pale.
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Lewis and Clark is the largest brewery in Helena, and is undergoing a massive production expansion. They're also the only local brewery that cans.