By Tyler Allen Big Sky Weekly Staff Writer
BOZEMAN – David Breck started making beer 24 years ago, when he was introduced to home brewing by his brother in Palmer, Ala. Breck’s love of the trade has fermented ever since, and in March 2013, he opened Bridger Brewing in Bozeman.
Breck dabbled in home brewing during college in Stockton, Calif., where he earned a degree in civil engineering at Pacific College.
After college he moved to Portland, Ore., to do stream surveys for the Forest Service and volunteered at Full Sail Brewery, during the early days of the microbrewery revolution that started in the Pacific Northwest.
“People started getting into the mindset that, ‘we can grow, produce and make better quality products for ourselves,’” Breck said of the region in the mid-‘90s.
In 1997, Breck moved to Bozeman to pursue a graduate degree in civil engineering from MSU. The first year, while establishing Montana residency, he took a job as bartender and assistant brewer at Spanish Peaks Brewery, under the tutelage of current Bozeman Brewing Company owner Todd Scott.
When Spanish Peaks Brewery closed in 2003, Breck focused his energy on Watershed Professionals, the consulting business he started in 2000. He closed Watershed in 2007 and opened Spanish Peaks Engineering and Consulting with a new partner, David Sigler.
All the while, Breck continued home brewing, honing his craft. Eventually, he wanted to take it a step further.
“I remember saying to [Sigler], ‘I don’t know if I want to consult anymore,’” Breck says. “‘I might be ready to open up a brewery.’ He said, ‘why don’t you do both?’” While building Spanish Peaks into a successful consulting company, they researched financing and potential locations for Bridger Brewing.
In 2010, they were close to finalizing a lease for the Artcraft building on Main Street in Bozeman, when the owner pulled out at the last minute.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Breck said of the setback. A year later, they found a spot on the south side, and started renovations in November 2012 in the Town and Country building on 11th Ave.
“A number of people have thanked me for opening this place on this side of town,” Breck says.
Breck also brought his longtime friend Jim Eberhard in as a business partner and creative force in the kitchen. A fishing and hunting guide, Eberhard had little commercial kitchen experience, but “I had all the confidence in the world he could do it,” Breck says.
They decided fast, fresh food is what many people want when they go out, so they paired “craft beer with craft pizza.” The dough is prepared fresh daily and the sauce is made in house. The vegetables are sliced and the cheese grated the day it goes on the pizza.
“Oxygen kills beer and it kills food,” Breck said.
Bridger Brewing has relied on word of mouth and grassroots marketing to advertise thus far. It provides beer for Green Drinks – a monthly gathering about sustainability in Bozeman – and hosts weekly community lunches every Tuesday, donating 10 percent of proceeds between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to a local nonprofit.
The brewery’s grand opening is Saturday, May 11, and will feature music from John Floridis, Holler N’ Pine and the Dirty Shame.