Avalanche Forecasters’ Beer Social Fundraiser is Jan. 27

By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BOZEMAN – Montana-made beer will be paired with regionally sourced food for Gallatin Valley gastronomes on Jan. 27, during the Avalanche Forecasters’ Beer Social Fundraiser at Bozeman’s Montana Ale Works.

The seventh annual Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center fundraiser will feature distinctive beer from Bayern Brewing, Bitter Root Brewery and Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company, paired with the imaginative dishes of Ale Works Executive Chef Anthony Calkins.

Duck confit crepes with poached pears and mascarpone will match Red Lodge Ullrfest Lager, while the restaurant’s house-made pork sausage with bagel chips and preserved lemon mustard will complement Bayern’s Doppelbock.

Calkins uses Montana ingredients whenever possible, he said, and while he has more experience pairing food with wine, a beer pairing just makes sense at this restaurant.

“We’re Montana Ale Works, so why not pair [food] with beer?” Calkins said. “In Montana there’s a lot of unique, food-friendly beers and it’s always fun to try something new.”

Joe Barnett, the restaurant’s bar manager for the last eight years, is constantly seeking something new for the bar’s extensive tap beer selection. His passion for keeping the brewer’s rotator selections fresh and different has connected him with breweries around the state and Mountain West.

“I wanted to get outside of the Gallatin Valley a little bit [this year],” Barnett said. “They were the first three breweries I reached out to and all said ‘yes’ right away.”

The intent is to join seasonal beer with seasonal food, Barnett said, who worked with the chefs to showcase flavor combinations, finding beer that is complementary to the sauces featured in each particular dish.

All three brewers will be on hand to talk about the beer they’re bringing to Bozeman that night. One of those brewers is Jason Goeltz, general manager of Hamilton’s Bitter Root Brewery, who will release the season’s first keg of Red Dread at the event, a month before it’s sold anywhere else.

The 8.2 percent imperial red IPA has nine specialty malts along with Montana-based malt, and is “ridiculously dry hopped with Simcoe and Citra hops … [and] has a big, chewy malt body,” Goeltz said.

Goeltz is also bringing his 2014 Harvest Ale, brewed entirely with Montana ingredients, including Chinook and Cascade hops from the Bitterroot Valley, with local cider and cherries. While the mountains around Hamilton are not part of the GNFAC forecast area, Goeltz is a level one avalanche instructor, fundraises for his local avalanche center and is excited to support southwest Montana’s avalanche forecasters.

“Backcountry skiing and safety is near and dear to my heart,” he said. “The Bozeman community has been incredibly supportive of our beer and the [avalanche] center has been supportive of the ski community there.”

Montana Ale Works has a long tradition of supporting causes they’re passionate about, according to managing partner Roth Jordan. The restaurant doesn’t advertise in print or other media; instead, it uses its community partnership series for grassroots advertising, connecting with local nonprofits.

Jordan sits on the board of the Livingston-based Western Sustainability Exchange, which connects farms to restaurants, to keep locally made products in the state and encourages restaurants to use them.

“One of the reasons we decided to start doing it this way is we can reach more people,” he said. “It’s more ‘friendraising’ than fundraising.” The forecasters’ fundraiser began as a wine-pairing dinner but shifted to beer two years ago to appeal to a broader range of community members.

The Jan. 27 event will have more of a social atmosphere than years past, according to Barnett. The dinner will be hosted in the pool table area at the east end of the building, as opposed to one of the intimate side rooms where it’s been in previous years.

“This one’s going to be a big departure from what we’ve done in the past,” Barnett said. “It’s going to feel more like a beer fest than a wine dinner.”

Fifty tickets will be sold for two different seatings at 5 and 7 p.m. In addition to the brewers, the GNFAC forecasters will be on hand to socialize and answer questions about this year’s snowpack.

Visit mtavalanche.com for more information or to purchase tickets.