Located in the Heart of the Northern Rockies, Missoula’s stunning panoramas and never ending outdoor activities are ideal for any Montana excursion. With more than 60,000 acres of wilderness in proximity to downtown, outdoor enthusiasts will love the winter activities available at Snowbowl, Lolo Hot Springs, and Clearwater National Forest. Visitors will also find that the city is a hotbed for craft breweries. Locations such as Big Sky Brewing Company, Tamarack Brewing, and Missoula Brewing Company feature a variety of delicious beers to sample.
The Winter BrewFest has been a mainstay in Missoula since its inception seven years ago, and it will take place February 17 at Caras Park. This is the only outdoor winter brewfest in Missoula and attendees will be able to sample a variety of beers from Montana's top brewers. While the event takes place outside, patrons will be able to keep warm with fire barrels, heaters, and a variety of warm drinks at the hot drink bar (alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be available). Attendees will also have the opportunity to sample mixed drinks from local distilleries and tasty meals and treats from favorite local food trucks. Those attending with the family will love the kid's activities such as s'more making and free carousel rides. We interviewed Marketing and Events Director for the Downtown Missoula Partnership Kristen Sackett to learn about this unique beer sampling experience.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
KS: While the event is taking on a new focus and is going through a transition, the original Winter BrewFest has been running since 2011 (seven years).
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
KS: Typically the Winter BrewFest has drawn an average of 3,000 people.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
KS: In the past for Winter BrewFest, the typical demographic was folks 21-40, and it was mostly groups of friends “out on the town” enjoying a Friday evening in our Downtown. The new event model is changing the day and expanding the hours.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
KS: This event is held outside in the middle of winter at a location where there are typically no events during this time of year. It takes place in Caras Park which is the “town square” of Downtown Missoula. It’s a way for Missoulians to get out of the house after several months of cold weather. With fire barrels, heaters, warm drinks, cold drinks, good food, and music, it is a truly unique winter event for Missoula.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event. What can I expect as an attendee?
KS: The primary focus of the event in the past has been giving folks an opportunity to taste different beers from breweries around Montana. While that will still be an option, we are lowering the number of beers and increasing the drink options to include a hot drink bar with both hot toddies and non-alcoholic hot drinks, and mixed drinks from local distilleries. Patrons will also find a couple of retailers selling beer-themed and winter gear, food vendors, kids snow activities such as free carousel rides, and a DJ playing all the favorites.
RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?
KS: Food trucks are a large part of Missoula’s culture, particularly at events. Four of Missoula’s best food trucks will be there.
RAL: Tell us about the overall atmosphere?
KS: A wintery atmosphere with great brews, wines, ciders, mixed drinks, and hot toddies. Food trucks give folks plenty of options to satisfy their hunger while they warm up by the fire barrels and listen to the best mixes of music from a local DJ. As a unique winter event, it’s not one to be missed.
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
KS: There are a couple of Downtown hotel locations that are within a short walking distance to the event venue and several that are a short 2-3 minute Uber ride.
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
KS: Downtown is the truly the ‘Heart of Missoula’ on many levels. It’s the place most Missoulians gravitate toward when they are searching for things to do over the weekend. This event, with its unique timing, gives folks something to do in the middle of winter when outdoor options tend to be limited, and there are only so many inside places to go throughout the winter.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
KS: It might not be huge, but it helps give our Downtown a boost in the middle of winter. Many folks come to the event for a couple of hours and then hit up local restaurants and bars to warm up after.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
KS: This is such a unique event to not only Downtown, but to all of Missoula. It creates a “meeting place” for friends to chat over drinks and for families to allow the kids to run around the park and enjoy getting out of the house while the parents enjoy time with other adults. Missoula is a fantastic place to visit, so if you happen to be traveling in the area or are looking for a new, unique winter experience, Winter BrewFest will fit you just perfectly.
For more information about the Winter BrewFest, please visit the event website.