Stirring the mash early on a weekday morning, Jeff Grant considered the beer to come. More than 430 gallons of water mixed with
1,200 pounds of grain will yield roughly 15 barrels of a seasonal IPA in a few short weeks.
Grant, a University of Montana graduate, isn’t a newcomer to the craft of brewing. As the son of eastern Montana brewers, he was practically born into the trade.
“My parents own a small brewery in Miles City, so I grew up in it,” Grant said. “I got a business degree from UM and halfway through college, I decided I wanted to be a professional brewer.”
Grant co-owns Draught Works Brewery with Paul Marshall. It’s a fitting pursuit for an entrepreneur who studied business at UM and brewing science at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Sitting on the patio of his taproom, Grant recalled his further studies in Munich, Germany, and the five years he worked at the Four Peaks Brewing Co. in Tempe, Arizona. It was around that time he started drawing up the business plan for Draught Works.
“I wanted to own my own place,” he said. “We got investors and searched for a building for quite a while, maybe a year and a half. When we saw this place, we knew right away this was it.”
The brewery was founded in a 1930s-era warehouse near the railroad tracks on Missoula’s westside – an industrial zone Grant likens to those in Portland and Denver, where reinvestment and renewal have turned downtrodden areas into hip new urban
Shortly before Grant stepped off the platform, stirring the mash, a locomotive rumbled past the open cargo doors. Festive party lights strung over the patio awaited sundown.
“Our original plans were always looking downtown,” Grant said. “Frankly, now that we have this place, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s got that industrial, neighborhood feel.”
Before Draught Works opened for business in October 2011, Missoula was home to three breweries, each known for quality beer.
But Grant and Marshall weren’t deterred by the competition. They’ve
spent the last two years brewing the likes of Scepter Head IPA and Clothing Optional, their two most popular brands.
“We definitely claim to make excellent beer,” said Grant. “Our entire brewing team has a formal education. They treat brewing like a hobby and a passion and are quite educated as well. That’s very important to us.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a receptive audience, and Grant credits Missoula’s thirst for homespun beer for the success of his business. Before Draught Works hit the scene, the city hadn’t seen a new brewery in
“People in Missoula were outgoing and adventurous and willing to give us a chance,” he said. “We felt that once they did that, our quality would speak for itself. We do our own thing, stick to our own thing, and it’s worked out well.”
With two years under their belt and a faithful following, Grant and Marshall and their westside brew crew are now looking to expand with distribution beyond Missoula.
They’ve entered the Kalispell and Whitefish markets and are ready to enter Helena and Great Falls in the weeks ahead.
“The whole industrial side of a brewery, when people come in, they see a taproom or bar-like atmosphere,” he said. “In our minds, it’s a factory, a production facility. It’s about making and manufacturing a product. I like the blue-collar side, whether it’s working with pumps or electricity, and how that’s mixed with this social environment.”