Q&A with Lone Peak Brewery owner Steve Nordahl
Special advertising section by Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor
Lone Peak Brewery opened its doors in October 2007 in Big Sky’s Meadow Village and has provided craft beers for locals, tourists and regional watering holes ever since. The brewery began canning its Retro Red and Class V Amber ales in December 2013, and Explore Big Sky recently sat down with owner Steve Nordahl to get the latest news from Big Sky’s local brewery.
Explore Big Sky: Tell me about the challenges and successes Lone Peak Brewery has seen over the years.
Steve Nordahl: The challenges are it’s a small town – and market – for both retail and wholesale. What’s really worked for us is being that place for locals, staying open every day [of the year].
EBS: Last winter you started canning beer. Why cans?
SN: It’s the official Montana package. When the technology of small canning machines became available – to the point where I was comfortable – we sold the bottling machine and went to cans.
The perceived bitterness and hop character of beer, the chemical makeup, is affected by light. It changes the chemical structure and what’s perceived is a light-struck, “skunky” taste. If you get a pint of Nordic Blond at the bar and finish it outside in the sun, it’s a different beer.
EBS: How is the canning side of the business working out so far?
SN: It’s going really well, we were shooting for a slow start since the middle of December is not the best time to take on new projects. I was a little apprehensive to make a big splash. The payoff is the summer and fall when people are getting outdoors.
EBS: Tell me about the changes to the Pint Pass this summer.
SN: This summer we’re doing a special Pint Pass menu focusing on a few basics for an economical, local menu. We’ll do a monthly party, to recruit new Pint Pass members, and have free beers and appetizers for existing members.
EBS: Your beer shows up at a lot of charity events around Big Sky. How many barrels do you donate a year?
SN: I donated about 50 kegs in 2013… six of those go to the Powderblast event for the [Gallatin National Forest] avalanche center. This is an extremely philanthropic community … When there’s a good cause, I make sure our beer is there.
EBS: It sounds like there’s another brewery coming to Big Sky. How do you feel about sharing your home turf with another craft brewer?
SN: It sounds like it’s going to be a very small brewery with just a sample room, and no local or regional distribution. I know I wouldn’t want to be the second brewery in Big Sky; this is a really small market.
EBS: Does Lone Peak have any special events planned for the summer?
SN: We’re going to start doing themed nights [see sidebar], including free movies for the kids upstairs on the 15-foot screen, so parents can hang out down here [in the restaurant].
We’ll be at the farmers market on Wednesdays, and the Big Sky Brewfest [at Big Sky Resort on July 12].
EBS: Are there any new beers on tap?
SN: We did a spring wheat for the first time this year, and the Cascadian Dark Ale (a black IPA) has been the No. 1 draft beer here for two months. The Imperial IPA is back on tap, and as big as ever. The Amber Hefeweizen we just brewed for the Blue Water Task Force, for all of their events throughout the summer.
EBS: Who is your head brewer these days?
SN: I [recently] brought in a new guy, Jeff Hendrickson. He’s a sommelier that’s been working in wineries for 10 years, and his new passion is beer. He has a lot of fermentation experience and is wetting his whistle with the beer side.
Summer nights at Lone Peak Brewery
Friday – Movies for the kids, upstairs on the 15-foot screen
Saturday – Ladies night, with drinks half price after 9 p.m.
Sunday – Pint Pass events upstairs for new and existing members
Monday – Leisure sport night upstairs: foosball table, dartboard and the golf simulator with longest drive and closest-to-the-pin contests