Highway 191 parallels the river through the entire canyon and Walsh suggests stopping into the Cinnamon Lodge (37090 Gallatin Road, Gallatin Gateway, MT, 406-995-4253), operated by Ryan and Morgan Ayres, for a beer since they have many local craft beers on tap. If you pass through this area on your way to your river rafting trip, Walsh points out that “the lodge is known for its Montana Mexican food and if you need a room for the night, spending the evening by a campfire in front of your riverside log cabin isn’t a bad way to do it.”
A bit farther down the canyon is the town of Big Sky and the Lone Peak Brewery (lonepeakbrewery.com; 58 Market St.) where owners Steve and Vicky Nordahl serve their fresh beer (Steve is the brewer) and good grub. Walsh recommends their Lone Peak IPA and Buck Snort Porter, which would do well to wash down an Angry Bison Burger.
Speaking of local fauna, instead of looking downriver the whole time, don’t forget to look up. “This area is also home to big horn sheep, elk and mountain lion. The climbers on the steep canyon walls don’t have a bad vantage either.”
Past the portion of the canyon that is a rafter’s paradise, the river nears the town of Belgrade, home to the Madison River Brewing Co. (madisonriverbrewing.com; 20900 Frontage Road, Building B). “Stopping in to the brewery either before or after you hit the river is always a good idea,” says Walsh. “Howie and his crew serve up some award-winning beers. You can’t go wrong with the Salmon Fly Honey Rye and if you like a beer with a lot of hop flavor, then go for the Hop Juice IPA.”
Which is how we arrive at Bozeman, a small town except in the context of Montana. Beer travelers will want to make their first stop the Bozeman Brewery (bozemanbrewing.com; 504 N. Broadway) in The North Side, aka the Bozone. While Bozone brews are on tap practically everywhere in town, naturally, the freshest taps are at the brewery. Order a pint of the amber, hefe weizen or porter, or try whatever’s in season. “The brewery is a hot spot for locals so you might find yourself with standing room only,” warns Walsh, continuing, “Keep in mind all Montana breweries are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. only and you are only allowed three beers per brewery per day!”
From the Bozone, head down to Montana Aleworks (montanaaleworks.com; 611 E. Main St.) where over 50 local draft brews from tiny Harvest Moon in the town of Belt to the beer that made Montana famous, Big Sky’s Moose Drool Brown Ale, are complimented by an excellent menu. Walsh suggests their famous fish tacos or Montana Meatloaf, made with bison, pork and beef then wrapped in bacon! “Albert McDonald and his team are passionate about their beers and good service.”
Walsh notes that another good stop is the Bacchus Pub (bacchuspub.biz; 105 W. Main St., Suite 1A) tucked into downtown’s historic Baxter Hotel. And finally, if you’re not too tired after playing on the river all day and drinking fresh, local beer all night, pop into The Filling Station, aka The Filler, for some iconic honky-tonk at Bozeman’s best. Be forewarned that in true honky-tonk fashion, they have a few local craft beers on tap but most likely patrons will be enjoying tallboys of Old Mil and PBR more than anything else.