Following a three-year hiatus, Garden City BrewFest will take place Saturday, May 7, in the newly renovated environs of Caras Park in downtown Missoula. Montana’s original and largest beer festival features more than 70 beers, ciders, hard seltzers, and wines, served from noon-8 p.m. Local food trucks are on site, and Missoula-based bands supply live music.
“We’re feeling a little out of practice but we’re thinking it’s going to be another fantastic event,” says Kristen Sackett, marketing and events director for the Downtown Missoula Partnership.
Kicking of the festival will be local favorite Tom Catmull’s Last Resort (noon-2 p.m.); and house-rockin’ roots, rhythm and blues band, MudSlide Charley, takes the stage 2:30-4:30 p.m. Those who are regulars at the Union Club know the closing band – Joan Zen – will elicit a huge dance party from 5-8 p.m.
While Garden City BrewFest is admission free for all to enjoy, those interested in sampling the brews can purchase a seven-ounce commemorative glass, wristband, and four tokens for $20. Additional tokens are two for $3. Food may be purchased from some of Missoula’s favorite vendors: Big Dipper, Clove Cart Pizza, River City Eats, and Sa Wad Dee. Service club Missoula Sentinel Kiwanis will also be serving brats and chips.
The Garden City Beer Awards, judged and provided by Missoula’s local brewing club, the Zoo City Zymurgists, will be presented around 4:30 p.m.
Started in 1992, the event was originally called BRIW Fest, as the creators of the event were Bayern Brewing Company, the Rhinoceros, the Iron Horse and Worden’s Market. It was the first brewfest in recent Montana history and offered special beers that were not typically available for purchase. The event was turned over to the Missoula Downtown Association in 2003 and has served as a major fundraiser for the organization’s projects and programs.
Following an eight-month construction project in the park, Garden City BrewFest will be the first major event in the renovated Caras Park. The park now features a new flat lawn space and new amphitheater seating near the bandshell, although both will be inaccessible until mid-June while the new grass takes hold.
“We’re excited for the new look and updates,” says Sackett. “I think the community will be pleasantly surprised. I think they’ll notice a park that feels bigger and provides more accessible space for everyone in our community.”
The project is the first among many included in the North Riverside Parks and Trails plan that focuses on updating and improving the river corridor from Russell Street east to the Missoula College. Future plans include a new space for play under the Beartracks Bridge and river access upgrades near Brennan’s Wave that will feature better seating for spectators and ADA access to the waterfront, among other projects.
Garden City BrewFest coincides with opening day of the Saturday Markets in Downtown Missoula. Community members are encouraged to bike, walk, or utilize Mountain Line to travel to events. For those who choose to drive, ample parking is available in the Central Park and Park Place parking garages.
Major sponsors for this year’s festival include Bayern Brewing, Stockman Bank, Mann Mortgage, The Trail 103.3 FM, Gecko Designs, Bob Ward’s Sports and Outdoors, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Montana Properties, and OZ Architects.
Garden City BrewFest attendees are encouraged to drink responsibly and get a safe ride home. For more information, visit www.missouladowntown.com or call the Downtown Missoula Partnership at 406-543-4238.