Hero image courtesy of @downtownbillings_ on Instagram.
As Montana’s biggest city, Billings carries a lot of pressure to put an urban spin on the Big Sky Country’s miles of diverse—not to mention beautiful—wilderness. Fortunately, Magic City is more than happy to take on the challenge.
The area in which Billings would later take shape was first a stop on Meriweather Lewis and William Clarks’ famed expedition of 1806. (In fact, the only remaining physical evidence of the two American pioneers’ cross-country journey can be found at Pompeys Pillar, now a national monument that’s just a short drive from Billings.) With humble beginnings as a railroad town, Billings earned the nickname “Magic City” for its rapid formation, which seemingly happened overnight (i.e., like magic) in the late 1800s.
Today, Billings is a bustling city in the midst of Montana’s gorgeous, yet fairly rural, sprawling plains and mountainous terrain. That being said, part of what makes Billings so extraordinary is its unique topography—the Rimrocks run straight through the city, as does Yellowstone River.
With outdoor activities, historic sites, arts, culture, and foodie hotspots, Billings definitely isn’t short on things to see and do. The vibrant heart of the city can be found in Downtown Billings, where you can find some of the city’s best attractions, ranging from the Yellowstone Art Museum to DanWalt Gardens. But while you’re in the area, there’s one Downtown must-see that you simply don’t want to miss—Billings Brew Trail, the city’s walkable brewery district.
Hop from one brewery to the next when you make your way through Montana’s only walking brewery trail. This city bubble might not be an official neighborhood, but it’s brimming with nonstop fun and is one of Magic City’s most unique features. Keep reading to find out why you mead to add the Billings Brew Trail to your trip itinerary!
Sample a variety of microbrews at this rustic hangout and the first stop on the Brewing Trail (There’s not an order that you actually have to follow—feel free to start wherever you want!). The ales at Yellowstone Valley Brewing are all brewed by hand and tested throughout the process to ensure the correct levels of carbonation and flavor.
The brews are bottled immediately upon completion to maintain the utmost amount of freshness. In the taproom (also known as “The Garage”), you can find live music, expert bartenders, and friendly patrons. Some of Yellowstone Valley’s award-winning beers include Black Widow Oatmeal Stout, Wild Fly Ale, Numbskull IPA, Buffalo Bill Cody Rye Beer, Grizzly Wulff Wheat, Renegade Red, Huckleweizen, and Woolly Bugger Grand Cru Root Beer.
“Great brewery in a garage-style vibe, with lots of unique touches like the stools made from kegs, pendant lighting made from kegs and also from glass beer growlers . . . Sampled five or six of the current beers. Loved the Wild FlIPA that was maltier than most . . . I think the growlers are $12 which is like getting 4 pints of beer for the price of three.” -Gates B. on Yelp.
Inspired by Samuel Pepys calling pubs the “heart of England,” the owners of Last Chance Cider are on a mission to preserve the warm, social atmosphere of traditional pubs in days past—in other words, Last Chance Cider is a place to eat, drink, and be merry.
With its floor-to-ceiling German-style fireplace and careful blend of old and new, Last Chance Cider is a homey place that allows you to sit back and enjoy the comfort of your surroundings. The food menu includes classic pub fare like burgers, fish and chips, and sandwiches, as well as other crowd favorites like nachos and tacos. On the drink menu, you’ll find beer, wine, and, of course, cider. And because the production facility is onsite, you can stop by and see how the ciders are made (pressing season is October through March!). Plus, you can even schedule a time to get some firsthand experience pressing apples yourself.
“In town for business. Never been to Billings, and was wandering around the downtown area when I found this awesome place. Beer and cider are delicious; the food is great and well-priced. Awesome service, and the cheesecake is spectacular.” -Jason W. on Yelp.
At Überbrew, craftsmanship is the name of the game—whether you order food, a beverage, or both, you know what you’re getting is the best of the best when you’re at this beloved taproom and gastropub. With a long list of awards to its name, Überbrew has been recognized on both national and international levels for its outstanding ales, lagers, and beers.
Order wheat and fruit beers, cream and pale ales, amber lagers, and IPAs when you stop by Überbrew on Billings’ historic Montana Avenue. Food items include appetizers like smoked wings and cheese fries, salads, soups, sandwiches, sausages, burgers, and desserts. A family-friendly pub, Überbrew is the perfect spot for a casual lunch or dinner, and there’s even a kids’ menu for the little ones!
“Everything was right, staff, brew, and food. Cool vibe, easy to hang out in. OMG, I ordered a raspberry beer, and it was delicious. I mostly drink champagne, and this was the champagne of beers, so good. The staff was friendly and patient and really cared about their product. I would totally do this again and again.” -Lara M. on Yelp.
Seated right next to the railroad tracks, Carter’s Brewery might be in an offbeat location, but its beer selection is definitely on-point. The brewery, taproom, and beer garden are all situated in what used to be a railway storage facility, and Carter’s homage to Billings’ railroad-town origins can be found throughout the establishment, from its train-inspired decor to the names of its beers.
With IPAs, porters, ales, pilsners, stouts, lagers, and just about every other kind of beer that you can think of, Carter’s is known for its extensive range of brews and low-key atmosphere. Watch the trains come in and sip on a handcrafted beer while you appreciate the significance of being in the place where Billings first began.
“Great variety of beers. Definitely the best in town. The bartenders are knowledgeable and very helpful. It can be a little bit of a tight space, but everyone's friendly and accommodating so it feels like hanging out in someone's kitchen during Thanksgiving.” -Scoot C. on Yelp.
When it comes to brewing, Angry Hank’s uses local ingredients every step of the way: water that’s sourced from Yellowstone River, yeast that’s grown in-house, barley that’s grown and malted in Montana, and hops that are grown in Washington’s Yakima Valley—and milling, mashing, boiling, fermenting, carbonating, and kegging and packaging are all done in-house
You can find Angry Hank’s beer in bars and restaurants throughout the state, and customers can order kegs online for private events. Founded in an old Billings gas station in 2006, Angry Hank’s has remained true to its original ideals through and through: It’s a place to enjoy the company of friends old and new (with a homemade beer in your hand).
“Wonderful craft beer joint! Lots of space, good beer, and good people. My wife and I stopped here on the recommendation of a local man we met hiking earlier in the day. Very enjoyable afternoon. Bar staff was very knowledgeable and friendly, and the local man saw our car and came in and had a beer with us! Highly recommend stopping in.” -Joseph F. on Yelp.
With a game room, live music, and a wide selection of beers, this microbrewery was specially designed for patrons to have a good time. Flagship brews include Rimrock’d Amber (an amber ale), Bear’s Delight Honey Wheat (a honey wheat beer), and Rhymes with Orange (a Belgian-style witbier ale).
A diverse set of seasonal brews are available on-tap are cyclically put on-tap, and non-beer drinkers will have a few wines to choose from. Bar fare includes hot dogs, brats, soft pretzels, nachos, jerky sticks, and kettle chips.
“Great home brews. The location is awesome and accessible to other brewpubs, restaurants, & shopping in the Downtown district of Billings. The atmosphere is phenomenal and authentic to the rich history of Billings. They have a shuffleboard, pool table, and dartboard for added fun.” -Scot E. on Yelp.
With a history that dates back to 1994, Montana Brewing Co. has been a Billings staple for over two decades. In addition to award-winning brews, this long-established watering hole also serves food, including pub dinners. (A few favorites on the food menu are the fried enchilada bites, asiago cheese dip, Southern mac & cheese, and buffalo chicken salad.)
In terms of brews, you’ll have your pick of ales, porters, stouts, IPAs, fruit and wheat beers, and even a few ciders. Not only is MBC Montana’s oldest brewpub—it’s also the one that’s won the most awards!
“ We've always gotten great service, food, and brew. The prices are beyond reasonable. If they happen to have the Custer's Last Stand ice cream dish on the menu, try it! Oddly, the chimichanga is excellent as well. Seasonal brews on tap along with the traditionals.” Teresa M. on Yelp.
In addition to the breweries on this list, there are two bonus stops that you can add to your walking tour of Billings’ Brew District: Trailhead Spirits and Asylum Distillery! These two craft distilleries might not fit the beer theme, but they’re in the area and a great way to round out your Billings experience. Happy trails, and happy drinking!
The best sites of Southern California.
This long and beautiful drive has many stops you will not want to miss!