Blackfoot River Brewing was founded in 1998 by three passionate homebrewers and beer aficionados: Brian Smith, Brad Simshaw and Greg Wermers. But the seeds of the brewery were planted a few years earlier.
The year was 1993, an important year for Brian and Brad. That is the year they decided to give up drinking beer. Give up drinking bad beer that is. What followed was a couple of years of brewing like maniacs in Brad’s basement. Brian and Brad soon discovered that not only was it possible to make great tasting beer, but it was also great fun. And judging from the many friends who magically appeared on brew night it was easy to see that good beer and good friends were a good combination.
Now in a serious mode of homebrewing, the two decided that they wanted a way to get a good, reasonably priced, supply of malt, hops, yeast and other home brew items. The pair did this by opening Howling Wolf Homebrew Supply in Downtown Helena (over on Placer Street) in 1995. The biggest customers of the supply store were Brian and Brad, whose real motivation at the time was not to make money, but figured as a retailer they could buy malt & hops at wholesale! Soon Greg (another passionate homebrewer and all around fun guy) joined the business.
For a couple of years the three kicked around the idea of opening a brewery, envisioning a brewery that would produce the finest, handcrafted, traditional beers to be found in Montana. All Blackfoot River beers would be brewed with the highest quality traditional 2-row malts, hops, and yeasts, individually selected to produce each particular style of beer. Each of the specialty beers would be carefully handcrafted 15 barrels at a time. Blackfoot River's beers would be unfiltered, never pasteurized and available exclusively on draught. It was hoped that the brewery would be a community-oriented locale providing a comfortable alternative to the typical bar scene.
But dreaming was one thing and doing (and money) was another. Eventually the three got brave and went to the bank with a business plan. Despite good judgement the bank loaned the money. In May of 1998 the dreams of a brewery were coming to fruition in a recently vacated garage building located next door to Miller’s Crossing. Given the bank loan, lots of creativity, loads of hard work, and help and encouragement from many friends, Blackfoot River Brewing Company became a functional brewery. The first test batch of beer was brewed on December 1st, 1998. The brewery received its federal brewery license on December 31st and has been busy making great beer and great friends ever since.
In October of 2008, after eight years of thriving in the cozy environment of the original building, the brewery moved into a wonderful new facility built on what used to be a parking lot next to the old brewery. Many customers were at first weary of leaving the old brewery for the new one. “It won’t have the great character of the old place”, they said. The response from the brewery staff was “It will be our job to make great beer and provide great service in the new place. It will be your job to define and provide the great character in the new place.” So far everyone has owned up to their responsibilities as the new facility provides an ideal place to make beer and an ideal place to enjoy beer and friendly company.
Thanks to all of the folks- staff, business partners, and customers, who have helped make the brewery such a great success!