The craft brewing industry has taken the Treasure State by storm. Montana has one of the nation's highest person-to-brewery ratios with 10 breweries per-capita. But, one brewery started it all.
Montana's oldest brewery, Bayern Brewing, has always stayed true to its German heritage. Not only did they introduce Montana to Bavarian beers, but they also brought the art of craft beer to the Big Sky State.
That's why Bayern is this week's Montana Treasure.
From cans, to bottles, to right from the tap, Bayern has a legacy of brewing true German beers.
"For us we always stay true to lager beers and Bavarian specialty beers, and of course our seasonals," Bayerns Brewmaster Thorsten Geuer said.
And you will never find an IPA in their tap room.
"We know what we do and what we do best and it is these styles of beer," Geuer said.
Now a days you can find Bayern on grocery store shelves and at other bars, but when they first opened in the 80's, domestic beers like Coors and Miller ruled the tap.
"In 1987 the owner, Yergan, opened up the place downtown. He needed to have something different to set him apart from those breweries and the way he did that was an amber, and followed by all the seasonals you see now," Geuer said, "For a lot of people that was a jump. Going from these very easy approachable beers and domestics, to a craft beer that now had color."
As craft brewing started to catch on Bayern out grew their original downtown brewery and moved over to third street, but soon even that building couldn't keep up with Bayerns production.
"They were necessary moves because the business was changing. In 1987, it was a concept of a person was behind glass and was brewing and you could watch them brewing, a house brewery, and it changed into a production facility and we needed more space," Geuer said.
Nearly every week they produce roughly 1,600 cases of beer, plus 200 kegs but even as their production grew they still wanted that house brewery feel.
"We wanted to be sure people are still included in the production process," Geuer said, "So we installed windows so they can look down on us, watch us bottling, look into the brew house, see the brewer, see how tanks are cleaned. We wanted an access point for people to see as many production areas as we could."
But a change of address isn't the only upgrade Bayern made over the years. They are also leading the charge in sustainable brewing.
"Five years ago we got a bottle washer from Germany custom made for us. We have now 66% of our glass is second use glass, and that is a concept you will not find anywhere else in the U.S.," Geuer said.
That's right, when you buy a six pack of Bayern's beer four of those bottles were recycled, where they were washed, inspected, then refilled.
"The beauty of our system is that we are not just focused on Bayern glass to come back, we take anybody's glass as long as it is a brown 12 oz bottle," Geuer said.
Five years ago, they also added a bistro serving traditional German food.
"That really brings together the German beer making. It's German heritage and schnitzel, I mean you cant go wrong right there," Geuer said.
Changing and growing, but staying true to their roots, Bayern has enjoyed the last three decades of brewing and has their sights set on many more.
"I think that it will always be a local driven consumer product that is what the craft beer industry will morph into. Where most of your beer you will sell in the community," Geuer said.
Bayern Brewing Montana's oldest brewery and this weeks Montana Treasure.