by Nathan Boddy
Last week’s blazing temperatures did not stop a busy string of events for the Bitterroot Valley, including performances by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and Daly Days in downtown Hamilton. For those seeking shade and a few cool beverages, however, they were both plentiful on the grounds of the Daly Mansion during the 27th Annual Brewfest.
The Brewfest is the primary fundraising event of the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce (BVCC). For the second year in a row, the event made a successful showing at its new location after having used downtown Hamilton in years past. The BVCC took steps to assure its accessibility, however, by providing a free shuttle to/from downtown Hamilton to the event running every thirty minutes. The spacious
grounds at Daly Mansion provided ample room for kids to run, food trucks, live music and, of course, Beer Alley, where fifteen local and regional breweries had their products ready for unlimited tastings.
Jim Myers, Head Brewer at Ronan Co-Op brewery, said that he was glad the BVCC opened up the invitation for more regional breweries this year. “We were thrilled,” he said. “It’s been great to be here. Everyone has been really nice so far. It’s really nice to be in the shade on a day like today!” Myers also pointed out how the event brings people together. “It kind of greases the wheels,” he said. “It gives everybody an opportunity to get to know each other and find some common ground.”
Jodi Mitchell, office manager at the BVCC, was glad that Brewfest included more of the regional Montana breweries this year, but that the event has still maintained a uniquely Bitterroot character. Mitchell says that the Chamber continues to learn from each event, and make changes as needed. “We just do what we think is appropriate for where we live.”
One of the changes that the Chamber undertook this year was having a phone app for the event itself. Mitchell says that they like the idea of a paper-free event, but the app also allows people to rate the tastings and see availability at a glance. Keeping people well informed was only part of the BVCC’s aim, as well as keeping them well hydrated. Water stations throughout the event were plentiful, as well as a ‘misting tent’ for those wishing to cool off even more. Mitchell said she would have been happy to see some signage as well, urging people to pace themselves with a beer/water/beer/water routine.
Mitchell was glad to see the way the event was unfolding, despite the heat. “The one thing about having it on the Daly Mansion grounds is that everyone is so respectful,” she said, adding that the BVCC has worked to coordinate with other events at the Daly Mansion and sees them all benefitting from the cooperation. She also pointed out that many school reunions were present and taking advantage of the shady grounds as well. Last year’s Brewfest drew about 1600 visitors, she said, and that was despite covid uncertainty and smoky skies. “Last year we learned a lot of things,” she said, “so this year it has been very smooth.”
Conflux Brewing of Missoula was present, and moving fast through their ‘Donkey Brains Pina Colada Sour,’ made with real pineapple and coconut tea from Lake Missoula Tea Company. Derek Fassino, head brewer at Conflux, was just as excited about the venue. “I think it’s great so far,” he said, adding, “Everything is tasting great! This is my first time in Hamilton. This is an amazing place.”
That same sentiment was echoed in the Wildwood Brewing tent, where Katee and Jim spent some time volunteering to pour. Jim’s observation about the Brewfest seemed to hit that mark: “This is more of a hometown brewfest,” he said, “more intimate and friendly.”