By Sarah Gianelli EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Twenty-eight breweries, including 20 from Montana, were represented July 16 at the 11th annual Brewfest at Big Sky Resort. It was a solid turnout, considering there were two other beer festivals held the same day, one in Virginia City and another in Billings.

Bozeman’s Outlaw Brewing owner/brewer Todd Hough said that when he opened five years ago, there were about five beer festivals all summer long in the state, and now there are close to 30.

“I’d like to be at all of them,” Hough said. “But sometimes you can’t be everywhere you want to be.” He hasn’t missed Big Sky Resort’s festival since Outlaw Brewing opened. “I choose this one because it’s always fun, the bands are always good and we just love Big Sky.”

Kristen Neithercut, the resort’s events and conference manager, took a moment mid-festival to express how pleased she was with this year’s Brewfest. “The event has been fantastic,” she said. “The weather has never been this great … Last year it was snowing. So we’re happy.”

Nearly 700 people came out to sample the local flavors alongside a small sampling of out-of-state favorites like Rogue and New Belgium.

For the first time, Brewfest patrons were asked to vote for their favorite beer on ballot cards scattered throughout the event.

Spirits were high at Big Sky’s Beehive Basin Brewery booth, where three of Andy Leidberg’s popular brews—the Moffat ESB, Working Guys Cream Ale and the 50 cal. Coffee Porter—were flowing freely. Beehive obtained their license last year on the day of the Brewfest, so this was their first time hosting a booth at the event.

“We’re strong-arming people for their votes,” Leidberg joked. With a huge platter of coffee porter brownies on the table, bribing might be more accurate. At the time, Leidberg didn’t know that his .50 Caliber Coffee Porter would indeed win best beer—by one vote over big league contender New Belgium and their Tart Lychee Sour Ale.

“I really think the brownies helped,” Leidberg laughed. “They were super delicious.” That might be true, but Leidberg’s coffee porter was the secret ingredient.

Beehive Basin Brewery celebrates its one-year anniversary on Sunday, July 24 beginning at 2 p.m., with a pig roast catered by Bucks T-4 Lodge.