H.A. Brewing Company, Eureka

Story & Photos by LIDO VIZZUTTI
Transitioning from winter to spring, it can be difficult to define what we yearn for in a beer. The lingering cool temperatures hold us back from taking that leap into much lighter and sessionable brews, yet our inner cravings push us toward something to pair with the spring thaw.

Some contend it is a time for maibock – or May bock – while others say spring is truly the season for saisons, sours and Lambics. Although an extremely popular and drinkable beer year round, the Grave Creek India Pale Ale (IPA) from H.A. Brewing Co. in Eureka may be just what the season is asking for.

Grave Creek IPAThis IPA doesn’t try to break the palate with extreme hop forwardness. It is a well-balanced ale utilizing hops – Cascade, Summit and Centennial – to build off the malt backbone and round out the flavor instead of overpower.

Making beer “I would want to drink is basis for all my beers,” said brewmaster Chris Neill. “Who wants to pucker? That’s just too much for me, and I like my bitters.”

As there has been a trend for IPAs to become more explosive in their hop characteristics, this beer works to maintain a citrus and pine balance. Neill uses pelletized hops for the Summit but uses fresh leaf hops for the Cascade and Centennial, something his brewery can utilize due to its size.

H.A. Brewing Co. opened its door in August 2013 with a 2.5-3 barrel system of up-cycled dairy equipment. Being 2.5 miles off U.S. Highway 93, south of Eureka, the brewery hasn’t been hurting for community support. In under a year the brewery has expanded and now runs a 5-barrel system.

In September 2013, only a month after opening, Neill’s IPA took top honors at the 5th Annual Montana Brewers Fall Festival in Missoula.

“We were definitely surprised by winning,” Neill said. “It was acknowledgment that we’re on the right track. We’re making quality beer and to me that’s the import thing.”