A Passion for the Perfect Beer
It takes time, precision, a sharp palate and, at times, a complex understanding of chemistry. Sometimes recipes take years, even decades, to perfect. It sounds like a grueling process, but for beer lovers, the result is worth it: art and science folded into a refreshing foam-topped glass—just the right balance of hues, hints and bold flavors. And for some of Billings’ best local breweries, making the perfect craft beer is more than just a process—it’s a passion.
In Billings’ west end, Canyon Creek Brewing has built a reputation for excellent beer. For brewmaster Ron Kalvig, the beers locals have come to love the roots that extend well beyond the Canyon Creek brand.
“I started homebrewing back in 1998,” Kalvig says. “I worked out of the garage and started building my own equipment. I turned my garage into a brewery.”
In 2013, Kalvig decided to share his liquid masterpieces with the public. At Canyon Creek Brewing, he spends the majority of his week brewing his beer on-location. In the time since the local brewery has opened, Kalvig’s creations have morphed from a few batches in his garage to a full-scale, increasingly popular local brewery.
“It’s kind of hobby that’s gone astray,” Kalvig says. “It just kept growing and growing.”
He says that a main key to his success has been taking advantage of local ingredients and striking just the right balance.
“I use as much Montana-made malt as possible,” he says. “I like giving people a place to go and drink good local beer.”
One of Canyon Creek’s most popular beers, The One Night Stand Blonde Ale, also happens to be its oldest recipe. The Blonde Ale was the first beer Kalvig brewed, and years of tinkering have paid off. Known for its soft body and refreshing finish, its fresh taste stems from local ingredients, namely pure Montana two-row malt.
Another sought after selection, especially during the summer, is Canyon Creek’s Beer Henge Hefe. A deliciously cloudy, unfiltered American Style wheat beer, “The Hefe” is crisp, buoyant and refreshing.
For beer drinkers wanting a sharper, more full-bodied beer, Kalvig recommends the Cold Creek Scottish Ale. True to its roots, the beer is crafted with Scottish ale hops, crystal malt and roasted barley. It holds hues of roasted malt and is rounded off with a smoky finish.
Patrons looking for a darker beer turn to the Canyon Creek R.I.P. Porter. Heavy and full-bodied, Canyon Creek’s Porter melts bold tastes of grain into a smooth finish.
In downtown Billings, Thirsty Street is quickly establishing a reputation for quality beer in a fun environment. Owner Shea Dawson discovered his love for brewing after taking a brewing science course in college. Soon after, he started brewing beer on his own. In 2016 when he opened up his Billings brewery, he knew he wanted to focus on creating quality beer in an inclusive setting.
“We wanted to take advantage of the space and make it a place where people would want to come hang out,” Dawson says. “The atmosphere is part of it, but the beer is definitely a bigger part of it.”
Brewing all of his beer on his own, Dawson spends hours crafting each batch in-house. Like Kalvig, Dawson takes advantage of local ingredients and focuses on creating high-quality beer.
One of the most popular beers at Thirsty Street is the Bear’s Delight Honey Wheat. Made with honey from Columbus, Montana, it has strong wheat hues and a soft honey finish.
Dawson says demand has also been high for the Staycation IPA. A smooth India Pale Ale with lighter hop undertones, it has a fruit-forward taste, featuring hints of pineapple, papaya and mango.
For dark beer lovers, Dawson recommends the Big Bison American Stout. A flavorful stout, it blends chocolate and coffee hues and has a smooth, roasted barley finish.
Overall, whether locals prefer their beer light and crisp, dark and bold or somewhere in between, they can rest assured Billings’ local brewmasters are using their love of beer to mix up a masterpiece in a glass.