Good spirits are in abundance when you pass through the door of the unassuming storefront of Montana Distillery on Main Street, Stevensville. This small-batch craft distillery opened its tasting room on Christmas Eve 2020 and offers delicious cocktails in a warm and friendly environment, as well as many kinds of bottled spirits.
Mark Hlebichuk and Sharie McDonald owned and operated the Montana Distillery in Missoula for about five years before deciding to move it to Stevensville.
Mark’s background is in industrial hygiene, hazardous materials and toxicology; he had his own consulting firm in Missoula for over 25 years. When that career was winding down, he was able to take his extensive knowledge and put it to good use in the distilling process. He had originally wanted to start a brewery but when Flathead Distillers in Eureka came up for sale, he and Sharie decided to buy it. They moved the equipment to Missoula, and now to Stevensville. They live in Lolo and are enjoying the less stressful commute.
The couple has spent many years perfecting their products. They produce vodka, gin and dark spirits (which legally can’t be called “whiskey” because they aren’t made with grain) in many flavors. Only pure, natural ingredients are used, such as Montana/Idaho sugar beets and sugar, fresh fruits and vegetables, like wild huckleberries, and naturally grown fresh raspberries and cucumbers. One of their dark spirits is made with beer from Wild Wood Brewing, another Stevensville producer that prides itself on its natural ingredients. They work in small batches that take about three weeks from start to finish. Montana Distillery also makes Bloody Mary and Caesar mixes, which will soon be available statewide as their bottled spirits already are.
In addition to Mark and Sharie, there are two assistant distillers who handle much of the psroduction and bottling.
Montana Distillery’s spirits have won numerous awards. They entered five products into the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition and all five won awards: cucumber and raspberry vodkas took silvers, ginger and bacon vodkas took bronzes and their original Woody Street vodka was the only American entry to win a gold medal in the vodka category. In a San Francisco competition, their gin won a double gold medal. And among Montana distillers, one of their products has taken Best of Show every year they’ve entered that competition.
Sharie also does most of the mixing and serving of drinks in the comfortable tasting room, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m. “She’s one of the best,” says Mark, who can be found most afternoons making drink garnishes and chatting it up with the customers.
They have no regrets about their decision to relocate to Stevensville and are eager to participate in downtown events.
“We’ve been thanked here more times every single day then we have been anywhere else,” said Mark. “We really like Stevensville.”
Victoria Howell can be contacted at [email protected] or 406-207-8793.