Bayern Brewing, Inc. is located in Missoula, Montana, United States, and is the oldest brewery in the state. It was founded in 1987 by Trudy and Reinhard Schulte and is known as the "only German brewery in the Rockies." It is named after Bavaria, the state located in the southeastern half of Germany. The brewery is focused on German food, German beer, and an environmentally friendly policy.
|Location||1507 Montana St., Missoula, Montana, United States Missoula, Montana|
|Annual production volume||10,000|
|Owned by||Jürgen Knöller|
Trudy Schulte, one of the original owners, came from a brewing dynasty in Bavaria and grew up in German brewing culture. The Schultes immigrated to Missoula from Bavaria and soon after opened their bar, restaurant, and brewery on leased property. Ironically, despite being in the same building and separated by a single door, due to Montana state law at the time, Bayern was forced to go through a distributor to transport their own beer from the brewery to their bar and restaurant combo. According to Montana state law, the brewery could also not be an official brewpub, as those were not legal to operate within the state at the time. During the first several years of operation, supplies were difficult to come by, especially yeast. However the Euro was at a lower value than the dollar, making German equipment more accessible and cheaper than American machinery, despite its high quality. Then in 1991, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the reunification of Germany, the Schultes decided to sell their American dream and move back to their homeland, investing instead in former Soviet-occupied East Germany. At this point Jürgen Knöller, fellow Bavarian, and the Master Brewer of Bayern Brewing, stepped in and purchased the brewery.
Knöller has been the primary owner of Bayern Brewing since he purchased Bayern Brewing in 1991. His interests in brewing began when he was a teenager in Bavaria, Germany. Since the original owners and Knöller were raised in Bavaria, Germany, the name of the brewery stems from their home, as Germans call Bavaria Bayern. Knöller graduated from Doemens' Masterschool for Brewing and Soft Drink Technology in Munich, after nine years of professional training. After he graduated in 1987, he was hired as the Master Brewer in the newly founded Bayern Brewing in Missoula, Montana. Knöller bought out the original owners in 1991 and has been running and operating Bayern Brewing ever since. Bayern practices “Reinheitsgebot” or “the Bavarian Purity Law” which states that only water, hops, grain, and yeast may be used to brew beer and additives like fruits are to be left out. The inclusion of this German tradition adds to the authenticity of the brewhouse.
Knöller went on to hire the current master brewer, Thorsten Geuer, in 2002 after his years as an apprentice at the prestigious Hasbro Früh brewery in Cologne, Germany, his internship at Bayern, and finally his formal study at Berlin's famous brewing college, VLB Berlin, where Thorsten received his bachelor's degree.
Bayern has been situated in three separate locations across Missoula throughout its history and has moved twice to better accommodate the growing business. Originally located on N. Higgins near the train depot in downtown Missoula, Bayern Brewing later developed a plant on 2600 S. Third St. W., and then expanded once more and are currently located at 1507 Montana St.
Previously, Montana state law capped craft brewery production at 10,000 barrels. Bayern had to try and continue to grow without producing more than the 10,000 barrel limit. However, with the passing of House Bill 541 in 2017, production limits were raised to 60,000 barrels, giving Bayern room to expand further. House Bill 541 was officially passed and signed in the Edelweiss Bistro by Governor Steve Bullock. In 2017, Bayern began canning their beer for the first time and introduced a 32-ounce “crowler” can.
Throughout its history, Bayern has remained committed to being a community oriented business, even commissioning local artist Monte Dolack to design some of their labels that include depictions of local wildlife and landscapes. Dolack is responsible for designing most of the labels and advertisements for the beers produced and served at Bayern Brewing. He has designed the labels of some of the breweries most notable brands: Doppel Bock, Pilsner, Dancing Trout, Maibock, and Oktoberfest.
In 2015, Bayern Brewing opened Edelweiss Bistro in order to generate more revenue. Knöller opened Edelweiss Bistro because the “brewery [had] reached the 10,000 barrel limit imposed by Montana law, [and] he decided a restaurant would be a good way to expand the business.” The bistro serves a variety of authentic German food, which is fresh and reflective of its Bavarian roots. There is a large variety of options that customers can choose from including käsespatzle, curry wurst, schnitzel, and sauerkraut. Keeping with their tradition of sustainability, Knöller sources his pork from a local and humane provider, and purchases high-quality food. The care and attention put into the preparation of the food is evident in the quality of the food. Since there weren't any other German restaurants in Missoula Knöller wouldn't be “in direct competition with [his] customers,” and it would bring something new and interesting to Missoula, contributing to the diversity of Missoula brewing.
Knöller has made business decisions to make sure Bayern Brewing is eco-friendly and sustainable. Bayern Brewing has been recycling their glass bottles since 2010, and they have developed cardboard “eco-packs” as a way to motivate their customers to return glass bottles back to Bayern. If customers bring in their eco-packs, which are reused and recycled, and they are given a 5 cent discount on every bottle that they return. The eco-packs are a one time deposit of 3 dollars, and the customer can keep reusing those eco-packs and receive discounts from Bayern Brewing. There are specific requirements for the bottles that Bayern Brewing is able to use, but all of the requirements are listed on the eco pack. Knöller invested in a custom-made bottle washing machine for Bayern Brewing in order to make their glass recycling process possible. According to Master Brewer, Geuer, “between 30 and 60 percent” (varying week to week) of the glass they use is recycled. Bayern Brewing also gives 10 cents back to every six-pack carrier that is returned, because most six-pack carriers are still in very good condition. Bayern also donates its brewing waste to local farmers as feed for cattle and other animals.
In 2007 Bayern began to phase out the name "Trout Slayer" for one of its best-selling beers. For much of the beer's history, it was known simply as "Light Wheat Ale" until it leased the name "Trout Slayer.” It was later trademarked by Kalispell businessman Brian Beck. Knöller did not want to continue to pay high licensing fees, and he wanted to rename the beer to reflect Bayern's more eco-friendly policies. In 2007, Knöller wanted to name the beer “Dancing Trout” in order for the beer to reflect Knöller's philosophy of environmental preservation. The new Dancing Trout also became the Official Beer Sponsor of Montana's Trout Unlimited with a portion of its sales' profit donated to help preserve trout and their habitat. A new Trout Slayer Ale with a different recipe was released by Big Sky Brewing Co. later that year.
Knöller imports many hops that are specific to Germany, and a number of his beers adhere to set standards of various German institutions. Bayern produces many different beers that are specific to Germany, and they are produced in German fashion. They produce a Pilsner, a Doppel Weizen, Hefeweizen, Dark Marzen, and others.
Dark Doppelbock: German-Style Strong Doppelbock
- Gold Medal, 1999 North American Beer Awards
Doppelbock: German-Style Strong Doppelbock
Dragon's Breath Dark Heff: South German-Style Dunkel Weizen/Weissbier
- Silver Medal and Judges Award, 2010 US Open Beer Championship
- Gold Medal, 2012 US Open Beer Championship
Dump Truck: German-Style Heller Bock/Maibock
Maibock: German-Style Heller Bock/Maibock
Schwarzbier: German-Style Schwarzbier
Other breweries in Missoula, Montana
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- ""Bayern Brewing Company."". Montana Office of Tourism.
- Erickson, David. "Lawmakers gather in Missoula to celebrate raising brewery production limit". missoulian.com. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- "Bayern Brewing Releases Beer in Cans, Sets German Christmas Celebration Schedule". Growler Fills | Craft Beer Enthusiasm. 2017-12-04. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- "Bayern Brewing is Montana's oldest". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- Erickson, David. "Edelweiss Bistro: Bayern Brewing opens Missoula's only authentic German eatery". missoulian.com. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- "The Backstory on Montana's Oldest Brewery". All About Beer. November 30, 2016.
- "Beer Me! — Bayern Brewing — Missoula, Montana, United States". beerme.com.
- "2019 U.S. Open Beer Championship - Judging the World's Best Beers". US Open Beer Championship.