Glacier Brewing Company, Polson


Spring is coming and, like spring in Montana is apt to do, it assuredly will be filled with snow flurries and fleeting days of temperatures warm enough to tempt the soul from its wintery melancholy into a hopeful aching for barbecues, boating and hiking.

A bright and crisp golden ale brewed in the style of a Kölsch, the Golden Grizzly is an excellent beer to carry you through the season from the slopes to the paddleboards.

“It’s one of my personal and professional favorites,” said David Ayers, owner and head brewer at Glacier Brewing Company in Polson. “It’s the first beer recipe that I ever made (from scratch).”

Working as an assistant brewer for H.C. Berger Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado, Ayers said he was asked by the head brewer there to invent a beer in the golden ale family.

Golden Grizzly Ale“At that brewery we were making a lot of German styles, so my recipe palate I had access to was a whole cornucopia of different brewing grains. But also mainly noble hops,” he said. “So that’s really what I drew from to make that recipe.”

“I also wanted to have a little domestic flair so I threw in a nice healthy heap of cascade hops.”

“It’s a very crisp beer. The flavor doesn’t linger,” Ayers added. “You take a sip, you get the flavor, you swallow it, then it’s gone. I really like beers that finish very quickly and very clean.”

This is the intrigue with a Kölsch. In a world of craft brewing where boldness of hops and alcohol can dominate, Kölsch is all about subtlety.

In late 19th century, golden lagers were threatening to supplant the popularity of the darker German styles. German brewers came up with pale brews of their own in distinctive regional styles in response and in Köln (Cologne) they started brewing Kölsch.

In fact, use of the term Kölsch is prohibited except for beers brewed within Cologne’s city limits. The ale is traditionally fermented at a warmer temperature, and then conditioned at a cold temperature (lagered). If you’re a true traditionalist, the golden brew should be served in a cylindrical 0.2-liter glass.

The Golden Grizzly certainly maintains the customary lightness and drinkability of a Kölsch and is slightly dry on the palate, yet crisp.

“I wanted something bright, cheery, sunshiny and refreshing,” Ayers said. “It’s one of our most popular beers year round.”

“On the malt side there’s just enough roasted malts to give it the color. It’s sunlight in a glass.”