Winter watering holes.
That snowy winter road to your favorite weekend fun-spot can be long and winding and, let’s admit it, a little stressful. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel… and under the light is a frosty barley pop or an amber shot of belly-warming whiskey.
We know you recall there are laws against drinking and driving and just-plain-good-sense reasons to avoid mixing these two all-too-common activities. Either bring a designated driver or plan to sleep near where you drink (not in your car, man, it’s winter!). The local hotels and B&Bs will love the business.
Along the Gallatin
Be you blue collar or fleece collar, beyond the Bozone there’s a road pop with your name on it. Rolling in to Four Corners after a hard day cleaning up construction sites? The Korner Klub will satisfy that growling belly with hot chow, cold beer on tap, and no questions asked about grubby attire. Don’t miss the Roughstock Whiskey tasting room, just south on Hwy. 191. Roughstock broke new ground in an old industry by becoming Montana’s first distillery in over 100 years. For $5 you can enjoy a tasting led by a whiskey ambassador (I want that job) from 11am to 6pm, except Sundays. Get a bit toasted on malt, rye, or bourbon whiskey, aged in oak barrels, and then ramble over to Bozeman Hot Springs to develop a thoroughly laid-back outlook.
If you’re making that right-turn up the West Fork, where Lone Mountain lures you on like a snow-draped siren, save a 20-spot for some après-ski hops and barley. Big Sky now boasts two breweries. Let’s hear it for competition! Lone Peak, the mature brewer on the block, is a taphouse and restaurant so they can stay open till 9:30pm instead of the 8pm cutoff time for tasting rooms. With over a dozen beers on tap, you’d have to be a camel to go thirsty. Upstart Beehive Brewery operates as a tasting room, where brewmaster Andy Leidberg’s creations flow, including cream ales, coffee stouts, and the ever-popular IPA. As you roll south through the Park and into West, seek out Madison Crossing Lounge, located on in an old classroom of West Yellowstone’s first school. After you ski yourself silly on the Rendezvous Nordic trails south of town, or eyeball the toothy carnivores at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, make like lobo and sink your choppers into some elk sliders while you enjoy a selection from the beer and cocktail menu, including Rogue Dead Guy Ale and Pig’s Ass Porter.
Over the Pass
Over the Bozeman Pass, where the wind whips snow across the highway like migrating albino snakes, the oasis of Downtown Deadrock (Livingston) gives welcome refuge from the blizzard. Jon Berens and Lauren Silano have revitalized Neptune’s Brewery since they bought the struggling brewpub two years ago, bringing new brews and a fresh menu while keeping the nautical décor. The reasonably priced offerings here include the popular Dirty Bird APA and Mr. Bitters double IPA, available from noon to 8pm every day. Named for the region’s infamous, erratic gales, the Katabatic brewpub downtown packs ‘em in with a storefront on Park Street. Owners LaNette and Bryce Jones entered the microbrewery scene with a failsafe array of “rugged yet refined” APAs, IPAs, Scotch ales. and other rotating offerings. Pop in for a warming cold one after flailing the wintry waters of the Yellowstone for blue-ribbon trout.
Former railroad-traveler refuge, the Murray Hotel plays host to an eclectic crowd, with frequent celebrity sightings including modern heartthrobs John Mayer and Katie Perry and local characters Jim Harrison, Russel Chatham, and Margot Kidder. The Murray Bar brings in talented musicians for your entertainment as you sip and sample the local beers on tap. You can eat at the Second Street Bistro and stay at the Murray Hotel and never leave the building. On down the line toward Yellowstone, Gardiner’s Iron Horse Bar & Grill offers a funky refuge from the icy roads of Yellowstone. While their riverside deck won’t be too inviting when it’s ten below, there’s plenty of room inside to get stuffed on buffalo burgers and quaff a foamy pint as you relive that sighting of the Junction Butte wolf pack.
Head west to pony up at the Pony bar after a backcountry ski adventure to the Bell Lake Yurt in the Tobacco Roots. If it’s a Sunday, save a bit of spunk for some dancing to live swing music, but you can snag a famous Butch Burger any day of the week. In the heart of the Madison Valley, Willie’s Distillery makes full use of their handcrafted copper still to produce specialty whiskies such as Montana Moonshine, Bighorn Bourbon, and Huckleberry Sweet Cream Liqueur. Their old-west saloon-style tasting room is open every day in downtown Ennis. Plan a tasty stop over on your return from the Bear Creek Forest Service Cabin or winter wade-fishing on the Upper Mad.