Our mission is to match the quality of our beers to the quality of the Montana outdoor experience. Put in beer geek parlance: We live to pair our world class beers with Montana’s world class outdoors. By handcrafting the highest quality premium beers that convey our passion for an active Montana outdoor lifestyle, and producing and packaging them in environmentally sensitive ways, we expect to grow a community of beer drinkers and thinkers that can help cool our warming world. We are… In Search of Cooler Times®.
Click here to see some pictures of our amazing staff that are committed to this mission.
How did we get here?
KettleHouse Brewing Company’s owners, Tim O’Leary and Suzy Rizza, were living in Colorado in the early 90’s and caught the buzz for craft beer while frequenting places like Rockies Brewing Company, The Oasis, and Walnut Brewing. Spurred on by some atmospheric chemist friends who knew how to home brew, Tim started brewing in his kitchen in Boulder. Suzy made sure to be out of the house at knockout because one time he forgot to cool the wort before he put it in the glass carboy and it cracked. If you haven’t had sticky wort pour down your kitchen heating vents, you just haven’t lived. When a brew-on-premise opened in Boulder, Tim and Suzy checked it out. One thing led to another and they decided to move back home to Montana to try their hand at building a business with beer and reusable packaging as its founding principles.
So it happened in 1995 that Tim and Suzy opened Missoula’s first BOP. With craft beer pioneers like Wordens spreading the gospel of fine beer to Montana’s largest statewide beer market, Missoula was the obvious place for a weird brewery-like startup. Not knowing how to handle us, the State of Montana decided we could open a “U-Brew” as long as we obtained a brewery permit. So we did. Opening day was insane. Nobody came. We had held a “soft” opening a few days before to let our friends be the first guinea pigs. So our whole pool of customers had already been satisfied. We looked at each other and said “Now what!” since “WTF” hadn’t been invented back then. It was Suzy who probably came up with the logical idea of selling growlers. Suzy worked at the Missoulian by day and joined Tim by night to help staff a floundering neighborhood “U-Brew.” Little by little we hung inthere.
The whole point of moving back to Montana was to enjoy our rivers, mountains, and wide open spaces and the “aha” moment that every business owner probably has at some point, spurred us to action.
As we were only allowed to give samples away for free in our taproom, we realized we’d have to help bring Montana’s brewery laws into the 19th century. As it stood, breweries in Montana could give away as much beer as they liked, but could only sell for off premise consumption. We thought we needed to find out a way to sell some beer to the many neighbors who came in and didn’t want to take home a full growler – let alone a keg’s worth of bottles of home brew. They just wanted a place to bike to where they could enjoy a pint or three of fresh beer.
Rooted in History, Poised for the Future
In 1999, KettleHouse along with Himmelberger Brewing and the now defunct Kessler Brewing lobbied the Montana State Legislature to legalize on-premise consumption of beers. Customer could now enjoy 48 oz per person per day before 8 pm. We soon became the first brewery to charge for a pint of beer in our tasting room. The change in law transitioned us into a small microbrewery and neighborhood taproom. While folks who brewed in the early days sure remember them fondly, it was the “taproom exception” that kept us in business.
Now that we had some time to enjoy Montana’s rivers again, Tim wanted a way to get cans of beer into his raft. Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colorado started canning their beers in 2002 and Tim took note. Four years later KettleHouse became the first modern brewery in Montana to package beer in cans. It soon became apparent that there were a lot of people enjoying KettleHouse beer at home and throughout Montana’s outdoors. With demand rapidly growing, Tim and Suzy started looking for a building to house a new production facility dedicated to canning our award winning beers. In 2008, they eventually settled upon a historic warehouse in Missoula’s Northside railroad district. The Northside Brewery opened in July of 2009 with an expanded taproom to accommodate the ever popular Community UNite program and increased capacity to can beer to quench the thirst of Missoulians and Montanans.
I just can’t get enough…
Within about six months of opening the Northside, we realized we still didn’t have the capacity produce enough beer. We made the very tough decision to pull out of some markets in Montana because we just couldn’t keep up with demand. We scrimped and scrimped some more and we like to say that we had the only salesperson whose job it was to say “No, you can’t have what we’re selling.” In 2013, Tim & Suzy stood on the banks of the Blackfoot River in Bonner, MT and another vision was born. After a few years of due diligence and working with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, we broke ground in 2015 on 18 acres for a new 25,000 square foot production brewery. We started brewing in January of 2017 and we feel like we can finally take a deep breath, knowing that our beer is now available in the far corners of our home state of Montana! Thanks to recent legislation, we’ll be building a taproom there for the 2018 summer season.
Funny thing about life… it’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Tim was at a business lunch in the later part of 2016 and Nick Checota, owner of The Wilma and Top Hat Lounge said he was looking for an outdoor venue to hold concerts. Tim sauntered over after the presentation and told him to come on out and take a look. Nick was digging four days later. All the deets on this world class amphitheater, as well as the 2017 concert lineup, are here.
In Search of Cooler Times®!
KettleHouse encourages waste free consumption of our award winning beers through growlers offered as to-go options at both taprooms. KettleHouse cans are environmentally friendly too; they are 100% recyclable (unlike glass) and are easier to take with you on outdoor adventures, especially on Montana’s rivers where glass is illegal. Our boxes contain the highest amount of post consumer recycled materials that we could find, and in every step of the process we strive to reduce, reuse or recycle. The use of Montana-grown two-row barley, malted in Great Falls, MT, cuts back on excess shipping and transportation needs while supporting local agri-businesses. The spent grain generated through the brewing process is given to local farmers to feed livestock (one local pig’s favorite food is Cold Smoke® spent grain mixed with Montana Lifeline Dairy whey), and a small portion is given to Missoula’s Le Petite Outré Bakery where they make Brewer’s Spent Grain Bread. We even reuse water; the hot water generated by quickly cooling hot wort is used to start the next beer. We follow the mantra: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.