Big Sky Country brews aiming for top spot at Montana Beer Awards

Montana Beer Awards.jpg
Posted at 6:12 PM, Feb 22, 2024

HELENA — At Lewis and Clark Brewing, over 30 judges from throughout the country will taste-test 365 different beers from 55 breweries from throughout Montana.

“Well, first of all, I think it's really good for Montana craft beer, right? To increase the exposure to craft beer is super important,” says judge and event organizer, Bob Hall.

Submitted samples are divided into their appropriate categories and judged blindly according to specific criteria.

“We judge everything according to a standard. And so, there's all these styles and there's a thick book that has all the different styles out there,” says Hall.

Judges are expected to put aside their personal tastes and judge based solely on those criteria. Hall has been judging beer for 3 decades.

“My preference doesn't get to, you know, it doesn't get to come in. I can't say ohh, I don’t like these beers because there a certain style. In many ways, styles that are not my favorite are oftentimes the ones that I like judging the most because if you can impress me with a beer style that I don't normally drink, then that's great,” says Hall.

Judges take approximately 10-15 minutes per beer judging everything from taste to look. After they’ve gone through and picked their favorites, they deliberate with their tablemates to pick their top 3 to move on to the next round of judging.

This is the first year of the Montana Beer Awards. Thursday and Friday’s judging will culminate in an award ceremony on Saturday.

Loy Maierhauser, Competition Committee Chair, says that this competition gives brewers feedback which they can use to better their product and elevate Montana beer as a whole.

“I was talking to some brewers last night actually and they were like, I mean it's nice to come home with some hardware, like that feels good. But the reason that they enter is to get that feedback to make their beers even better,” says Loy.

The award ceremony will begin at 6:30 Saturday evening at Lewis and Clark Brewing, and the party with live music will begin at 8 PM. There will be 8 guest taps available to try.