Saturday, March 12, 2016

Community Socializing and Fussing Over Craft Beer Returns to Columbia Falls

   Montana's 65th brewery of the modern era, Backslope Brewing, has finally opened in Columbia Falls.  A couple of years ago we had a brewery, but alas, it was short lived and many dreams were dashed and hearts broken.  I'm not here to lament over that, but rather to sing the praises of Darin and Carla Fisher's dream of opening a new brewery in Columbia Falls, which in turn, has become a dream come true of many of the residences of the area.

  Backslope Brewing fills a need that many local beer lovers have; the need and desire to make the act of enjoying a pint of craft beer a social and communal affair.  The decision not to outfit the place with televisions was a good move, as the absence of such distractions fosters an environment of talking to your neighbor vs. staring mindlessly at something as mind sucking as a television.  At no other place do I feel more comfortable striking up a conversation with a complete stranger than I do at a craft brewery.  It's a low/no pressure atmosphere and everyone is there for the same enjoy and fuss over a well crafted, locally made, craft beer.  When I belly up to the bar it doesn't seem to matter who is seated next to me, they are always more than receptive in engaging me over the finer points of the beer they are enjoying, are curious as to what I'm drinking and my opinion of it, and if I have any recommendations.  

 The bottom line is, going to a craft brewery and enjoying the fruits of the brewmeister's labor is a social event, not a let's go to a brewery and get drunk event.  Seriously, when was the last time you saw a fight break out in a craft brewery between two intoxicated individuals?  When was the last time you witnessed someone in the bathroom praying to the porcelain goddess, because they were drunk off their ass?  I suppose it happens, but I'm proud to say that I, personally, have never seen this at a craft brewery.

    Darin and Carla are fostering the former rather than the later with the gem of a brewery that they have created here in Columbia Falls.  With its open floor plan and abundance of tables, by Montana craft brewery standards, I would label the tasting room space as medium sized.  The bar top is made from an old growth log that had been laying on the bottom of Flathead Lake for the past 100 years.  The bar's base is wrapped in corrugated, galvanized steel that was reclaimed from an old barn being torn down near Great Falls.  The tasting room space itself surrounds you in warm earth tones with its dark wood flooring, medium to light colored walls and table tops made of non-stained slats of wood, lacquered, and wrapped in wrought iron.  Large windows in the tasting room give you a direct view of the brewing facility where you can see the brewing magic happening.  When the weather gets warmer you will be able sit outside under a covered patio while enjoying your tasty adult beverage as you take in the sights of the beautiful Swan Mountains to the east.  Last, but certainly not least, Backslope had the wisdom and foresight to put in a kitchen!  Good move!  Not satisfied with appeasing you with the usual humdrum pub grub, Darin and Carla have enlisted the services of the food artisans of Columbia Falls' Palette Cafe, masters of all things delectable.  Great choice! 

  All in all, a very cozy, relaxing space that through color and choice of construction materials creates a low key, chill, atmosphere that exceeded all of my expectations.  If I could change one thing about Backslope though, it would be that they add a communal table.  The place fills up quickly and completely during peak hours and the addition of a communal table would force complete strangers to sit together and when complete strangers sit together, complete strangers they are no more.

    Jeffrey von Kiper


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