This was the 10th consecutive Bitterroot BrewFest I’ve attended. The first three were as an attendee only. The last seven I’ve been involved as an active member of the BrewFest Committee. One year a thundershower passed through during the early part of the event – the other nine years the weather has been perfect – like clockwork!
Over the past decade, I’ve come to love the community and the people and the event.
It’s the one event each year that I pour my heart into – and then I take my souvenir glass and pour craft beer into.
I’ve taken a leadership role in making sure it’s a success not because I was asked to, but because it what was needed and what I was destined to do.
Here are 7 things I love about the Bitterroot BrewFest along with some great photos.
I live in a small town. Ravalli County is still considered rural but over the past four-plus decades it’s been one of Montana’s fastest-growing counties. People move here because of the temperate climate, mountains, and quality of life.
Many live here because they were born here. Many more live here today because they choose to make this valley their home.
Together, we are a community.
The BrewFest brings together 3,500 plus individuals and perfectly represents the kindness, graciousness, and generosity of our community. Families come with their kids to listen to music and meet with neighbors and friends.
I feel safe in this community. This community is my home.
Our community is made up of individuals. Individual people. Individual characters. We call ourselves Bitterrooters.
Bitterrooters are proud. Bitterrooters are resourceful. Most Bitterrooters have worked a variety of jobs over their lifetimes. Many still work multiple jobs today.
Bitterrooters value the outdoors and love individual freedom more than job security. There is little job security in the Bitterroot Valley. But there is ample freedom to enjoy the outdoors. Many Bitterrooters have an artist’s mindset.
The BrewFest is an opportunity for individuals to unite and be part of our community for a full day of beer, fun, and music.
Bitterrooters are good people. Bitterrooters watch out for each other. I always feel a Bitterrooter will have my back. I trust the people who call the Bitterroot Valley home.
3. Chamber of Commerce
Most people are surprised to learn that the Bitterroot BrewFest is a fund-raiser.
The BrewFest is the single-largest fundraising event for the Bitterroot Chamber each year.
The Chamber is a vital asset to our community and connects everyone from Florence to Sula. The Chamber focuses on providing up-to-date travel and tourism and relocation information. The Chamber assists visitors and residents in finding products and services including dining, shopping, outfitters, attractions, events, healthcare, and more.
The BrewFest gives me the opportunity to work with Director Al and Office Manager Pat throughout the year. The dozens of volunteers who work at the Chamber help make our community feel like home. I love being part of the Chamber and contributing in a way that allows them to do the work that they do. I love that the Chamber helps people feel at home.
4. Outdoor Party
The Bitterroot BrewFest is the best outdoor event of the year.
It’s a party. It’s a celebration of community and people.
The BrewFest has won Ravalli Republic’s annual reader contest for Best Event the last three years and for six of the last nine years. While beer is the star, the BrewFest is a family event where long-past-legal-age patrons bring their elderly parents. Young parents bring toddlers and juveniles and feel welcome and safe in our festive environment.
It’s ironic that the ‘star’ of the day is only now getting mentioned. Ironic but true.
The craft beers from across the state of Montana are the star of the day.
This year we had 69 different flavors of beer from 25+ breweries. There is something for everyone. IPAs, lagers, ales, seasonal brews, and many more. There are local ciders and wine.
Many of the attendees study the list of beers and seek out their favorites or something new. Others simply enjoy sampling a few different flavors on a hot summer day.
While there’s always a few who partake too much, the vast majority of attendees are in good spirit and well-mannered throughout the day.
In that sense, the BrewFest is just like any other day in the Bitterroot Valley only bigger and with much more variety.
6. Giving Back
I feel blessed to live in this community. When I moved here 10 years ago, I made the decision to participate regularly in the community.
The BrewFest appeared seven years ago as the opportunity for me to give back.
During the event many people thank me personally for being involved and helping make the event happen. I graciously say, “You’re welcome.”
I feel the gratitude of the community while feeling grateful to the community.
7. Committee and Volunteers
The BrewFest happens only because of the many, many volunteers.
Our committee of 10 meets monthly starting in February to prepare for our July event. We meet again in September to celebrate the success of each event. I?m lucky to have worked with a core group of volunteers for the past 5-7 years. We?re fortunate to have a few new volunteers join our committee every year as others depart and move their creative energy elsewhere.
In addition to the core group of committee members, there are an additional 20+ people who are regular volunteers each and every year. They perform key tasks and fill critical roles that make the event function smoothly. There are partner vendors and sponsors who provide products and services that without the event would not be possible.
We call them the Brew Crew.
Here is the miracle that occurs each year. Starting at about 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, the Farmers Market moves off Bedford St and we move in. By 3pm the tents are up, registration is selling glasses, and beer is flowing. Music starts at 4pm on the mini-stage by the tents and continues on the main stage at 7pm. At the end of the evening the kegs and tables and chairs all disappear. The next morning at 7am the tents and stages are broken down and the street is swept clean. At 9am, Bedford Street looks like it normally looks on any Sunday morning – quiet and serene. All this occurs in 20 short hours.
The Bitterroot BrewFest is a group effort!
The number of volunteers including the committee and beer pourers and registration tent workers and sponsors is over 75 people total.
This year I noticed a young lady taking photographs. She said she didn’t drink beer but wanted to participate in the event by taking pictures. I asked her to send me a few to include on the BrewFest Facebook page.
All of pictures in this post were taken by Justine Pearson.
Justine is a photographer with a gift for capturing the moment. I’m glad she joined our community. I’m glad she joined our party. I’m glad Justine volunteered to share her pictures and has the Bitterroot spirit of giving back. Thank you Justine. Welcome to our community. You are a Bitterrooter!