At Backslope Brewing, two families have teamed up for a culinary adventure in the gateway to Glacier Park
Story by Dillon Tabish | Photography by Lido Vizzutti
When Darin and Carla Fisher teamed up with Jake and Becky Sorensen for their new brewery and restaurant in Columbia Falls, they all agreed on one key ingredient — an area where their children could hang out and play.
Backslope Brewing, which opened in March, is truly a family operation and a community gathering place with room for everyone, whether it’s visitors fresh off a hike in Glacier Park or a husband and wife looking for a date-night destination with somewhere the kids can hang out.
This sense of family and community is at the heart of what inspired the Fishers and Sorensens to open their new business in Columbia Falls.
For years, Darin brewed his own beer with a passion for experimenting with the wide variety of options, from a wheat beer with lemon balm to a Kolsch-inspired blonde ale.
At the same time Fisher was testing his brew skills, Jake and Becky Sorensen were busy working for an eclectic variety of top-notch restaurants across the country, from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. While Jake crafted unique entrées, Becky trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Oregon, one of the top culinary schools in the nation.
Five years ago the Sorensens moved to Columbia Falls and opened The Palette Café, a popular destination for breakfast and lunch.
“We had a really tiny kitchen and I think it had run its course creatively,” Jake Sorensen says.
“We had been looking for some other opportunities.”
As fate would have it, the Fishers were in the same boat, ready to take Darin’s craft beer skills and expand into a new business.
“To us, the experience of enjoying a beer is enhanced when you can also share food with people. It just adds another element that we both really wanted to have,” Carla Fisher, the brewery’s manager, says.
“Then we met Becky and Jake from The Palette and that sealed the deal. Their food is incredible.”
The brewery, located at 1107 Ninth St. W. along U.S. Highway 2, is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The brewery serves four 12-ounce glasses; the state allows breweries to serve only 48 ounces to individual customers per day.
The arrival of Backslope Brewing marked the latest addition to the bustling craft beer scene in the Flathead Valley and across Montana. Montana has over 70 licensed breweries, more than double from a decade ago.
Columbia Falls was the lone city in the valley without a brewery since Desert Mountain Brewing opened and closed within a year in 2014.
The families’ vision of opening a new restaurant was also made possible because of Lyle Mitchell’s help. Mitchell, who owns State Farm Insurance on Ninth Street West along the highway entering Columbia Falls from the east, believed in the Fishers’ dream. He had purchased the vacant building next door to his business. The building was previously a taxidermy shop and pawn shop. Mitchell and the Fishers went to work transforming it into a brewery.
“Lyle invested a ton into this and made a huge investment in the community to make this happen,” Darin Fisher said.
“I wanted to do something that shows folks if you do a quality project in Columbia Falls, it will take off and people will support it,” Mitchell said.
“There’s a lot of nice things going on in Columbia Falls.”
The building now includes a 2,500-square-foot upstairs space that can seat over 60 people. Fisher has crafted eight craft beers while the Sorensens have created a full menu of sandwiches, burgers and more made by the talented kitchen staff at the former Palette Café. The menu items include a mushroom portabella sandwich and “Aussie Burger,” featuring pickled pineapple, caramelized onion, bacon, cheddar, fried egg, aioli, lettuce and tomato.
The lineup of beers features four standards: The Pilgrim, a Kolsch-inspired blonde ale; Crooked Wind IPA; Dr. Randolph’s All-Day Porter; and Sun Cut Stout. There will also be a rotating lineup of seasonal choices that currently includes Buxom J., a light ginger beer; The Huntsman, a peated malt beer that is partially barrel aged; The Quandry, a black ale aged in red wine barrels; and The Mendicant, an IPA “bursting with citra hops.”
The Fishers’ goal is to focus on being a family-friendly destination rather than growing into a large enterprise.
“Maybe we’ll get some bigger fermenters in the future but we’re not trying to conquer the world,” Darin said. “We want to be a C-Falls brewery. We want this to be a community gathering place.”
For more information about Backslope Brewing, call 897-2850 or visit backslopebrewing.com.