On July 4th (America’s Independence Day) we arrived in Helena, Montana, the capital of the state.
We were both struck by the lack of traffic and people in general. The state itself is 4th in size of all the US States but 44th in population. Helena has less than 30,000 residents, about the same size as my undergraduate university, Virginia Tech.
Helena was a stop-over before camping at the next pass, MacDonald Pass, on our way to Missoula.
While waiting for the 2pm opening of Blackfoot we struck up a conversation with Neil another beer enthusiast. We started talking about our favorite breweries and the subject turned to Oregon.
Neil was recently back from the Russian River Brewing Company where he brought back a limited release “Pliny the Elder“, a Double India Pale Ale. According to legend, Pliny either created the botanical name or at least wrote about hops.
Later, while in the Blackfoot taproom, Neil tracked us down and bestowed a gift of a bottle of Pliny. Thank you Neil! The beer, enjoyed a day or two later in camp, was an aromatic and flavorful blast of hops. Delicious! The kindness of strangers continued in Helena.
In the taproom, we struck-up a conversation with John and discovered a Houston connection. We also learned of the harrowing story of his granddaughter’s shooting in a Taco Bell drive through line. In an act of kindness, he picked up our tab. Two random acts in one day is a record.
The offerings from Blackfoot were all well done and definitely worth seeking out.
The Lewis & Clark Brewery also had a respectable variety of offerings on tap with the benefit of being partially housed in an old jail. Make no mistake, their beer is light years ahead of the pruno that may have been created there in earlier times. Like Blackfoot, Lewis & Clark is Wander Wheels approved.
On the way out of town and at the beginning of the climb up to MacDonald pass, we found the best tacos in Helena, at Louie’s. The food and the owner left an impression on us and after learning of our trip he encouraged us to sign his wall.