Beaver Creek Brewery: Worth the Trip

By Matt Gacioch

It’s not remote; it just takes awhile to get there. Located a mere three miles off of I-94, Beaver Creek Brewery in Wibaux, MT (pop. 700) exists as the only microbrewery on the 600 mile stretch of highway between Billings, MT and Fargo, ND.

With a small-town community atmosphere, a strong country music culture with plenty of live performances, and, of course, memorable pints, it’s no wonder Beaver Creek Brewery has been touted as Montana’s Microbrew Oasis.

Like many craft brewing beginnings, the Beaver Creek story started with homebrewing. Co-founders Jim Devine and Sandy Stinnett turned their passion into a local homebrew club, Beaver Creek Brewers, before its continued evolution into the brewery that opened its doors in August 2008.

However, it wasn’t an easy process to get those doors open. Investors were reluctant to lend capital for a brewery in such a small town, and the building (an old grocery store owned by executive partner Russ Houck) needed an estimated 4,000 hours of renovation work.

However dubious the beginnings, when asked about growth, Devine laughs and says, “All we do is expand!” In 2009, Beaver Creek produced 284 bbl and nearly doubled their production in 2010. With fewer than three years in business, Beaver Creek has seen four expansions and a lot of double batching to accommodate increased production with the same brewing equipment. Distribution reaches as far as western North Dakota and all the way to Billings, MT, where Devine personally drives kegs every handful of weeks. Plans are in the works to distribute further north to Minot and Williston, ND, and further west as far as Helena, MT.

Beaver Creek’s reputation has been built from the beginning on being a community-centered establishment. According to Devine, in such a small town, there needs to be something for everyone in order to see success.

While Montana’s three pint rule (Montana SB202 Taproom Serving Hours Bill) plays a part in ensuring the ever-genial and positive atmosphere that Beaver Creek Brewery is known for, the brewery also produces exceptional root beer for the underage crowd, and uses spent grain to bake homemade bread that regulars can’t get enough of. Between May and December, the brewery is also popular with the hunting crowd who come in for a succulent brat and a satisfying pint after a long day of roaming the woods.

In addition to tasting Beaver Creek, residents of Wibaux and visitors from all over have the opportunity to listen to great music while visiting the brewery. A country music artist himself, Devine has tapped into his Nashville resources to bring a number of big solo acts all the way to eastern Montana for a Winter/Spring concert series. Musicians like Doug Stone, David Ball, and Michael Peterson come into town to provide world-class entertainment to this small northern town that can feel a bit isolated in the long, cold winter months. In addition to these planned acts, it is not uncommon for Devine and other patrons to pull out a guitar and break into song at any time.

In short, it is worth the drive to Wibaux for what Devine calls “good beer and a great atmosphere.” From the start, Beaver Creek Brewery has been about people enjoying a great product and coming in to enjoy themselves. Swing by to find your oasis and learn why the good folks of Beaver Creek can profess with confidence, “Our Beaver Tastes Better!”