The soon to be Legend of Jeremiah Johnson

Like John Henry and Paul Bunyan, the name Jeremiah Johnson conjures up an image of a heavily muscled mountain man with a thick beard, a deep rumbling voice like rolling thunder, who may have at some time wrestled a grizzly bear or two.

But despite his prodigious amount of facial hair, Jeremiah Johnson is not a character out of American folklore, nor is he a bull frog, and I only wish he were a good friend of mine since he’s the kind of friend every craft beer lover dreams of having because his beer brings joy to you and me.

Jeremiah and his wife Katie took ownership of The Front Brewing in Great Falls, MT in 2018 and rebranded the brewery, subsequently adding to Montana folklore by giving it his name. They source the ingredients for their beer locally to ensure the freshest, most flavorful beers with that little extra something that you can only find in Montana.

Jeremiah himself has a warm personality that will make you feel like old friends as soon as you shake his hand. And it is obvious that he is very passionate about crafting the finest hand-crafted beers.

You’re probably thinking, “He sounds great, but what about the beer?”

Well, their flag ship beer Mountain Man Scotch Ale is so good, it will have you feeling the breeze between your knees and hearing the pipes on the evening breeze.

His Golden Bobcat Pale Ale, brewed to pay tribute to MSU’s (Montana State University) agricultural heritage, uses five varieties of hops and locally harvested honey to achieve a real taste of Montana.

The Citra IPA, with its grapefruit aroma, golden orange color, wonderfully hoppy taste, is everything an American style IPA should be.

Oh, and then there’s the Blond Ale, the Imperial IPA, the Honey Weizen, and, well, you get the picture. Each one is carefully crafted to be the best he can make it, and he does a fine job. A very fine job indeed.

Jeremiah also likes to experiment with different ingredients. While visiting the brewery I was lucky enough to get a little taste of an experimental beer brewed with lentils, and was really impressed. I would never have expected those tiny little beans would create such a rich flavor.

If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Great Falls, Montana, make sure you stop by the soon to be legendary Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company and have a pint or two. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you see Jeremiah, ask him to tell you the story about the time he took on a bear of a clog in one of the tanks. I heard it was grizzly.


Big Sky, Big Beer, Montana Proud

Montana is known as Big Sky Country, and for good reason. There aren’t many places where the sky seems to touch the ground, stretching from horizon to horizon with no buildings or trees to obscure the view. Montana is a beautiful place, with stunning views of far reaching fields, crystal clear lakes and streams, majestic snow-capped mountains…. and great beer!

You might be surprised to learn that Montana has the second highest number of breweries per capita in the US with 9.6 breweries per 100k residence, making it second only to Vermont which has 11.7 per 100k residence. Of course, this means nothing to a craft beer lover unless there is quality to go with that quantity. But Montana has that too.

On a recent trip to Montana, I was able to visit craft breweries in Helena, Great Falls, and Kalispell, as well as sample a fair number of brews from a number of other Montana breweries, and I have to tell you- craft beer is done right in big sky country.

Unsurprisingly Pale Ales and IPAs are by far the most popular craft beers in Montana, but at the same time you would be hard pressed to find a Montana craft brewery that didn’t have at least one Scotch Ale on tap. And while their Pale Ales were as good as you could get anywhere in the country, to get a better Scotch Ale you might have to go to Scotland. Some of my favorites were the Tartanic Scottish Ale at Blackfoot River Brewing in Helena, and the Mountain Man Scotch Ale from Jeremiah Johnson Brewing in Great Falls.

Wild fermented ales, or sour beers, are also gaining in popularity in Montana. I’d say that most of the breweries had a sour ale. While in Great Falls I attended the Montana Brew Fest, where Flathead Lake Brewing had a beer they called Bearhat Sour Brown which was aged in oak barrels for 3 years and it was amazing! In Kalispell, Bias Brewing’s Boss Pog Sour featured guava, peach and passion fruit, and had a great fruity/sour flavor.

The reason for the tremendous quality and flavor of craft beers in Montana may have something to do with the quality of the water, the clean fresh air, or it might be the fact that most of their ingredients are locally sourced- such as the barley which is not only grown in Montana but malted there by the largest malting company in the USA (Malteurop). My guess is that it is more of a combination of all the above, plus a deep abiding love for craft beer.

Big Sky, Big BeerMontanan’s are proud of their craft beer, and who could blame them? There are lots of reasons for them to be proud.