A hike and some beers in Bozeman fit just fine on a hot summer day. Bozeman is another of those “B” towns in Montana – there seem to be a bunch of them. We had already passed through Billings and Butte. Bozeman differentiates though as a college town – home to Montana State University. The attractive, well-kept campus is adjacent to an attractive, traditional main street stretch. Beyond that core is the typical sprawl that has glommed onto many otherwise attractive places in the mountain-west. The town got its start in the late 1800’s as an important commercial and transportation node serving the many outlying mining settlements in the area.
With nearly 50,000 residents Bozeman is one of the larger communities in Montana and MSU’s 17,000 student base swells things up a bit. The area has become popular with people who are seeking the recreational benefits the area offers or fleeing higher cost and more crowded places … or both. I heard grumbling more than once about resulting housing pressures and traffic concerns.
I was a bit surprised to hear Bozeman marketed as “gateway to Yellowstone National Park.” After all, Old Faithful is more than 120 miles and two and a half hours of driving away. I guess it’s a testament to the remoteness of Yellowstone and the prowess of Bozeman’s tourism marketeers.
My favorite quirky fact about Boseman is that the Star Trek saga made it the fictional site of Earth’s first contact with an alien species (the Vulcans) on April 5, 2063 – check it out! I’m scheduling a visit for then.
Bozeman is home to eight small breweries. Seven of them have a taproom or a pub that can be visited to try out their brews. The bicycle was my travel mode of choice and I mapped out a big loop that made use of some nice stretches of bikeways to avoid the mean streets. At a bit more than 15 miles, the loop was more than I had time to walk so biking worked well.
Bridger Brewing and Bunkhouse Brewery nestle right up to the MSU campus. Bridger is a restaurant brewery while Bunkhouse is a tiny hole-in-the-wall place that is just about the beer. MAP Brewing Company is a modern restaurant brewery just out of town with an expansive patio facing the Bridger Mountains. Outlaw Brewing has a honky-tonkish feel to it and is the farthest from the old town center. The face of Polar Brewing is a restaurant called Nordic Brew Works. Bozeman Brewing Company has a comfortable and funky feeling taproom in what seems like a converted industrial property of some kind. Mountains Walking Brewery is just a couple of blocks from BBC and sports a very mod, chic feeling design. BBC and Mountains Walking are on the edge of Bozeman’s Brewery Historic District.
Bozeman’s brewing history goes back nearly to the town’s founding in the late 1800’s. The most notable brewery was called the Bozeman Brewery, operated by a German immigrant family whose patriarch was named Julius Lehrkind. Lehrkind his brother Fred and other family members moved to Bozeman from Iowa where they had been brewing and purchased (and renamed) a brewery called Spieth and Krug. The Lehrkind’s chose Bozeman for its excellent water – wells up to 200 feet beneath the brewery served it. There was also a ready supply of quality barley grown by Dutch farmers in the area. The brewery eventually became known as “Lehrkind’s Genuine Lager Brewery”. The brewery business was killed by Prohibition and the family turned to ice, soft drinks, and other pursuits. There was a short-lived attempt to revive the brewery after repeal that didn’t work out.
The Bozeman Brewery Historic District was recognized as a National Historic District in 1987 and consists of several structures – one is the remnant of the old brewery, all still closely connected to the Julius Lehrkind family and their Bozeman Brewery business. The Lehrkind Mansion is a Queen Anne-style house that is now operated as the Lehrkind Mansion B&B. Their website makes no mention of the beery past, but it could be interesting to splurge and hang out in the old haunts of a beer baron if you spend an overnight or two.
A descendent of the family is now operating Julius Lehrkind Brewing in the district although I don’t believe there is any public presence. I didn’t even come across the existence of this brewery while I was there. My understanding is that their product is 100% packaged and sold in shops and stores in the area.
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Sypes Canyon Out-and-Back Hike
Sypes Canyon Trailhead is about a twenty-minute drive north from Boseman on country roads out to a subdivision that wraps around the trail for a short distance. The trail ascends up a canyon that cuts into the south end of the Bridger Mountain range. My goal was a ridge that I understood would offer great views back down to Bozeman. There is good shade for most of the route and the trail followed a small stream that trickles down the canyon. I’ve read that the stream drys up as you go later into the summer.
Although I stopped just short of it, the trail follows the high ridge to an intersection with Bridger Foothills National Recreation Trail which travels north and south through the Bridger Mountain Range. The Foothills Trail is an important connector that allows for designing a number of longer loops.
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