Best Breweries in Montana’s Flathead Valley

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When we first came to Montana, we knew nothing about Flathead Valley. Now that we have spent several months in the area, it’s a shame we didn’t get here sooner. But then again, maybe our timing was perfect. Then, we may not have met the wonderful people we’ve met here now. Then, maybe the vibe was different from the vibe we’ve instantly fallen in love with now. Then, the breweries here may not have even been thought of yet. But today, Montana’s Flathead Valley Breweries are some of the best in the state.

Combine those brilliant breweries with scenic views of the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, Flathead Lake, mountain biking and hiking trails, ski mountains, huckleberries, and the proximity to Glacier National Park, and you’ve got a paradise of all things outdoors.

Flathead Lake kayaking and sunset Flathead Valley MontanaIMG_8524 copy
Our friends, Debra and Barry, kayaking on Flathead Lake at sunset.

Because of all this, within a few days of being in the Flathead Valley, we were like fish – caught hook, line, and sinker. A friend knew even then that we were besotted with Montana’s wonders: all of them.

“Montana’s not going to let you leave.”

wise words from a friend

And we’re here to make sure that you don’t want to leave, either. So whether you get to Flathead Valley breweries now or later, your game of then and now could be the same as ours…a lesson. Don’t worry about what could have happened if you showed up earlier, because all you have is now. And the experiences and flavors of life that you get in the moment you’re in, well, those wouldn’t be the same, then.

Let’s start drinking!


A Tour of Montana’s Flathead Valley’s Best Breweries

We’ll tell you what we recommend and our favorites based off of beer, ambiance, and more. What we won’t tell you is where not to go. Everyone has differing opinions on what creates a favorite place for them and there are so many subjective components that come into play when choosing favorite breweries. 

If we visit a brewery and the flavor profiles of the beer there are not what our palates are looking for at that time, we’re not going to tell you it’s a bad brewery. But if a brewery has beer that has something off, such as spoilage or poorly made qualities based off of what beer is supposed to be, we’ll tell you that.

Otherwise, you’ll have to embark upon your own Flathead Valley brewery tour. Figuring out your favorites is the fun part. We’re simply here to get you started.

🍻  our favorites – Honestly, we loved all the breweries, but everyone has favorites, including us, and we felt that these were some of the Valley’s best breweries.


PRO TIP: Many small breweries and bars in Montana and across the country are closed Sun-Tues. All Montana breweries and distilleries that only have a brewing and/or distilling license close at 8:00 pm. They also generally don’t open until late afternoon, and a few only take cash, so plan accordingly.


Flathead Valley Breweries

Flathead Valley Breweries (South Flathead Lake)

RONAN CO-OP BREWING (Ronan)

Ronan Co-Op Brewing is a rare find across the country. Though there are nearly 9,000 craft breweries in the U.S. and around 100 in Montana, there are only a handful that are co-operative breweries, which are each collectively owned, typically primarily by members of the surrounding community. This is one of those co-op breweries.

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Ronan Co-Op Brewing, Montana’s only co-op brewery

Located off the main street in the town of Ronan just beyond the south end of Flathead Lake, Ronan is a quaint little taproom with a good selection of beer styles. It’s also kind of fun to know that at just about any given time, whomever you sit down next to at the bar is probably one of the brewery’s 400 or so owners!

GLACIER BREWING COMPANY (Polson)

Located in the downtown area of the little lakeside town of Polson, Glacier Brewing is good at providing a wide variety of styles. They also have a few surprising ales, such as German-style lagers and milkshake IPAs. They are well known for their Cherry Ale (the Flathead Valley has a number of cherry orchards in which you can actually pick your own cherries). Glacier also offers a few hard seltzers and carries a line-up of several non-alcoholic sodas. You’ll find plenty to drink at Glacier.

Flathead Valley Breweries (North Flathead Lake)

FLATHEAD LAKE BREWING COMPANY (Bigfork)

Flathead Lake Brewing has been a Western Montana staple since it opened in 2004 in Woods Bay, a neighboring community within Bigfork. The brewpub is now located directly in Bigfork with stunning views overlooking Flathead Lake. With 16 taps, Flathead Lake Brewing has a wide range of beer styles on tap at any given time, ensuring something that fits nearly any palate, including sours and barrel-aged beers. They have a full bar with wine, spirits, and cocktails, a restaurant menu, and are kid-friendly. The brewery also frequently has live music, comedy shows, film nights, and more.

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A flight at Flathead Lake Brewing overlooking Flathead Lake

TAMARACK BREWING COMPANY (Lakeside)

Founded in 2007, Tamarack Brewing is one of the oldest breweries in Montana. Though there is also a Missoula location, Lakeside on the west side of Flathead Lake is where the brewery originated. They have nine flagship beers that cover the bases for the vast majority of drinkers, including a non-alcoholic root beer. They typically also have several seasonal varieties on tap, along with fantastic pub-style food, and an inviting outdoor space along a creek.

Flathead Valley Breweries (Kalispell)

BIAS BREWING

Bias Brewing has a wide variety of standards in its line-up, but also pushes the boundaries with hard seltzer, hard tea, and even slushy beers. They also have a backcountry growler that is essentially a heavy-duty bag with a lid instead of a glass growler to make it easier to take off-grid on an adventure. Bias also has a full food menu and is kid-friendly, hosts live music, and other community-oriented events. Bias Brewing is one of three great Downtown Kalispell breweries that are within walking distance of one another. The others are Sunrift Beer Co. and Kalispell Brewing Co.

SUNRIFT BEER COMPANY

SunRift Beer Company has a quaint taproom with roll-up doors right next to the brewhouse. They typically have a solid line-up with enough variety for just about any style you prefer, including some forays into Belgian and German styles. Right next to SunRift’s taproom is their full restaurant. You can sit down in the restaurant for a meal and beer in a restaurant vibe, or you can stay in the taproom and still order food from the restaurant if you want the brewery vibe. Good food, good beer, good people. That’s SunRift.

KALISPELL BREWING COMPANY

Kalispell Brewing is a two-level brewery that also has a rooftop patio to soak up the views of the Montana mountains. They brew several traditional German styles that you won’t find often at other breweries. Styles like Dunkel, Doppelweizen, German Pilsner, and others are frequently on tap alongside their latest IPA, Stout, or Kolsch. You’ll also see some unique finds on the tap list, like barrel-aged sours and fruited beers. Kalispell Brewing Co. doesn’t serve food – they like to focus on their beer – but they do have a permanent on-site food truck that rocks the sandwich world, along with other occasional guest food trucks.

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Kalispell Brewing Company

SACRED WATERS BREWING COMPANY

If there is only one brewery that you visit in Kalispell, make it Sacred Waters with its huge front and back beer garden and beautifully crafted indoor space. They have a wide variety of beers and a lengthy tap list to choose from. Sacred Waters is nestled up next to their neighbors Rough Cut Cider and Glacier Sun Winery, which are located on the same property. And even better? They recently started serving Sacred Waters Eats! Now, in one of the best beer gardens in Kalispell, you can get beer and food.

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Debra enjoying a flight at Sacred Waters Brewing

Hospitality is also their game, and you’ll feel it immediately. Created in honor of Jordan’s mom and Kirk’s wife (the owners), the beer and ambiance here are as special as their love for family and Montana. Playing a huge role in the Flathead Valley community, they offer live music and host many special events. It’s easy to see why Sacred Waters continues to be one of our favorite breweries in the Valley.

Flathead Valley Breweries (Near-ish Glacier National Park)

BACKSLOPE BREWING (Columbia Falls)

Western Montana simply delivers on breweries in general, but the Flathead has a wealth of variety. You might not hear Columbia Falls mentioned much alongside Bigfork, Kalispell, and Glacier National Park, but Backslope Brewing is worth a visit. This small brewpub packs a serious punch with a wide variety of beers that ranges from the usual American styles to Belgians to knock you over Russian Imperial Stouts to Saisons and Barleywines. Their variety coupled with a vast food menu make this a great stop on the way to Glacier National Park.

BONSAI BREWING PROJECT (Whitefish)

A Flathead Valley brewery tour must include a trip to Bonsai Brewing Project in Whitefish. This brewery has consistently been on our list as a favorite since we first visited here in 2018. Bonsai Brewing Project has a cozy and inviting taproom that is fantastic for hanging out on those chilly, rainy days, but they knock it out of the park with their beautiful outdoor space. From the huge trees scattered across the property to the beautiful flowers and plants in the middle of the yard, Bonsai is the place to be on a warm sunny day in the Flathead … well, after coming off the lake, of course!

Bonsai Brewing beers outside Flathead Valley breweries Montana
Beer in the beer garden at Bonsai Brewing Project

They brew some of the most creative beers alongside consistent, high quality flagship styles, including several unique barrel-aged, bottled options. Though the beer and ambiance are reason enough to head to Whitefish, Bonsai also has a flair for fine food with a hand-crafted menu that includes pickled vegetables, hummus, their own smoked meats, and more. Bonsai is also very proud of its local roots, hosting numerous community events, live music, and other gatherings.

A Few Flathead Valley Dive Bars, Beer Bars, & Distilleries

Sometimes you simply want to dive in… to a dive bar, a beer bar, or even a distillery. These are all places that we have visited, and each one has its own unique personality. Try one, or try them all, or try ones we didn’t get to, but don’t let the fact that they’re not a craft brewery deter you. Most of them have live music and food. A few have dancing and drunkenness. Some are open to the wee hours of the middle of the night, but all are worth the trip.

THE RAVEN (Woods Bay)

Tropical vibes? Lakeside? A pier where you can dock your boat or kayak or SUP? Check. Check. And check. Oh, not to mention that they have a solid line-up of craft beer taps, as well as numerous signature cocktails, and some good lakeside grub. The Raven also frequently has live music throughout the summer season.

No shoes? No shirt? No problem! But beware, everyone knows and loves this place, tourists and locals alike. So grab a drink, sit back, and relax. The food service might take a bit longer than normal, but where else do you have to be? This is lake life, baby!

THE SITTING DUCK (Woods Bay)

There’s a little bit more dive in The Sitting Duck, but again, in a great way! Just a couple doors down from The Raven, The Duck has a full bar with everything you’d expect, as well as several local craft beer handles and a good can and bottle selection. Renowned throughout the valley for their Karaoke Night, The Duck also has its own pier, where you can tie off and hang out. And if you come around a little bit outside the high season of summer, you just might get to experience The Duck’s infamous Sunday afternoon bingo!

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Our friend, Britt, winning bucks at bingo at the Sitting Duck.

BUFFALO SALOON (Bigfork)

Another awesome Montana dive bar, the Buffalo Saloon has a full bar and features several local craft beers on tap and in cans and bottles. They show sports on several screens, have a Montana style happy hour (think three hours long!), and typically have live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

THE GARDEN BAR (Bigfork)

Smack in the middle of downtown Bigfork, this dive bar is the perfect combination of dark and moody on the inside to wild and raucous on the outside. Hang out and chat with friends and strangers while sidling up to the bar, elbow to elbow. Bust a move on the outdoor dance floor with live music and the comfort of strangers shoulder to shoulder. If you love dancing, drinking, and rhythms that keep your feet moving, The Garden Bar is the place to be.

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The Garden Bar patio

WHISTLING ANDY DISTILLERY (Bigfork)

If you like spirits, you can’t do much better than Bigfork’s own craft distillery, Whistling Andy. They have a diverse line-up of spirits from Bourbons and Whiskeys to flavored Rums, Gins, and Vodkas (yes, even a huckleberry vodka). You can buy bottles to go from their tasting room, take a tour, sample of a flight of several spirits, or sip on a hand-crafted cocktail. It’s not beer, but Whistling Andy is just too good to pass up!

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Handcrafted cocktails at Whistling Andy Distillery

THE A BAR (Ferndale)

Tucked away in Ferndale, just down the road from Bigfork, the A Bar is Montana. Want an ice cold beer? Some tasty pub grub? Or maybe you just want to get your groove on with some karaoke or live music. How about a poker run? If you want to taste/drink/experience Montana, dive into the A Bar!

MOOSE’S SALOON (Kalispell)

Definitely not a brewery, Moose’s Saloon is a quintessential Montana beer bar, complete with Wild-West style swinging doors. They have most of the American standards on tap, as well as a number of local and regional craft beer selections. Better yet, their beers are less than three bucks. Granted, they are served in a water goblet, but three bucks for a craft beer?! Yes, please! Keep in mind, this is a dive bar, and you’ll know it the second you walk in and step up to the bar. The bartenders are friendly, but they are busy, and they’re not going to put up with you taking your time to taste every beer before deciding. Here, you better know what you want.

They also have a full bar and are renowned for their pizza including their eccentric toppings such as sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut! Our pizza recommendation there came from a local: breakfast bacon, artichoke hearts, and sauerkraut! Phenomenal!

THE BRASS TAP (Kalispell)

While The Brass Tap does appear to be more of a restaurant than a beer bar, this place does both very well. Excellent food with a wide variety from bowls to fancy meals to pub fare, there’s a lot to choose from. And the same goes for their taps. Tons of taps! What else could you ask for? If you want to try a variety of different beers, not just from Montana, but from around the country and the world, The Brass Tap is an excellent choice.

MONTANA TAP HOUSE (Whitefish)

Just down the block from Bonsai Brewing Project, you’ll find the Montana Tap House. With 58 taps, and 50 of those taps being beer, you’ll definitely find something to suit your unique taste. Highlighting Montana beers and then some, come hang out, drink, play trivia, or listen to live music. Whether you’ve just busted your ass on the ski mountain the bike mountain or the couch mountain, this is the place to celebrate.

GLACIER DISTILLING (Coram)

En route to Glacier National Park, this is the place to stop either before or after your adventures in Glacier. Specializing in small-batch whiskeys, they offer tasting flights, handcrafted cocktails, and bottle sales to go. Built on a love for mountain life, moonshine, and friends, Glacier Distilling is a Montana must.

Flathead Valley Adventures, Food, and Shopping

In the middle of visiting all the breweries, bars, and distilleries, you’ll need to eat and play. Many of the breweries offer up fantastic food, but there are a plethora of restaurants and food trucks in the Valley offering up everything from street tacos to corn dogs to sushi to pizza to whatever your beer-drinking taste buds desire.

As for playing and adventures, Crane Mountain, Herron Park, Whitefish Mountain, and more offer a variety of mountain biking and hiking trails. Only interested in hiking? Check out Jewel Basin and most definitely Glacier National Park. Skiing and snowboarding? That’s here, too! Shopping? Bigfork, Kalispell, Whitefish, and all the towns have plenty of cute shops to meander through while waiting for your opportunity to hit up the next brewery.

And we cannot forget about Flathead Lake itself. Combine that lake with the many rivers and smaller lakes throughout Flathead Valley, you’ll be having a summer you’ll never forget. From paddleboarding to kayaking to fishing to boating to floating to swimming, there’s so much to do on and off the water here. Bring your own or rent for a day or week. Just remember to grab a local Flathead Valley brew for all your adventures.

Montana and Flathead Valley won’t let you leave.

I hate to say it, but it may be the Flathead Valley breweries that brought you here, but you’ll want to stay here because there’s so much more than just breweries. Come to Flathead Valley to play, to work, to drink, but you’ll want to stay because, like I said before, Montana just won’t let you leave.

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Cheers to Flathead Valley Breweries (photo courtesy of Marc Ellis Photography)

Want More?

Sacred Waters and Bonsai Brewing

Check out our interviews and brewery tours with the folks at Sacred Waters Brewing and Bonsai Brewing Project, two of our favorite Flathead Valley breweries.


Montana Stories

There’s so much to see and do in Montana, even outside of Flathead Valley. We’ve got a lot more Montana stories for you to explore. Click here to read more.

Ken resting on his bike on a road with trees and snowcapped mountain range in background outside of Bozeman Montana

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Debra
6 months ago

Great article and great area. We had a kick ass time and already miss it. And of course, both of you. Margarita Monday was just not the same here in our rig instead of the Raven!