Flathead Lake Brewing Company, Woods Bay, Bigfork and Missoula

STORY & PHOTOS by LIDO VIZZUTTI

Romantic feelings of home and the holidays steer the imagination and palate toward the cozy and familiar. As the days grow shorter, we intuitively seek out heartier comforts that warm and keep us sheltered from the bitter winds and growing snowdrifts. Winter is made for the dark ales that – being richer, thicker and more full-bodied – perfectly accompany the soul-thawing stews and roaring fireplaces.

Flathead Lake Brewing Company’s Painted Rock Porter is an award-winning winter warmer named for the ancient pictographs found on the cliffs along the western shore of Flathead Lake. The robust porter was awarded a bronze medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup and the quality has not deviated, according to head brewer Tim Jacoby.

“We like robustness here,” said Jacoby. “(Our beers) can stretch the style guidelines. That’s why people like this porter. It’s big and tasty.”

Painted Rock Porter LabelAlthough the Brewers Association provides style descriptions for each beer, including the robust porter, it’s difficult to pinpoint through the myriad mythology the exact history of the beer. It is, however, a realistic theory that the name derives from the working class porters of London who needed liquid and calories to complete an average day’s work, but even that is sometimes disputed.

The idea of necessity, sustenance and a relief from harshness, fits well into porter’s mythos. That feeling carries today as the chewy and full body of Flathead Lake’s porter emulates the darker weather in color and chocolate and caramel flavors. It’s big and robust, but not bitter.

“It’s a style of beer that’s easy on the palate and it’s a dark beer you can’t be afraid of,” said Jacoby. “It’s not very bitter and not very sweet. It goes with so many foods. It’s very versatile.”

Jacoby uses the porter as a base for the popular Rising Sun Espresso Porter. Blended with Kalispell’s Colter Coffee, the combination is balanced and smooth and the espresso marries well with chocolate and caramel. Jacoby said he also sometimes creates a small batch of vanilla porter by adding vanilla bean or blending the two into a vanilla espresso porter.

Painted Rock Porter is currently a seasonal tap, but once the new brewery in Bigfork is up and running Jacoby expects it to be available year round.

Visit www.flatheadlakebrewing.com for brewery contacts and information on locations for limited release of espresso and vanilla porters.