It was a chilly, snowy late afternoon when I stopped at Black Eagle Brewery. Only one other couple sat at the beautiful custom-crafted polished wood bar. Handmade wooden bar-height tables and living edge wood decor on the walls gave warmth to the brewery and it felt good after experiencing the weather outside.
Open for 4 1/2 years, Black Eagle Brewery adjoins a restaurant named The Pit Stop. Across the street to the west is a race track, hence the restaurant’s name.
The beer menu at Black Eagle Brewery reads like a short history lesson of the community known as Black Eagle.
Smelter Men Ale with an ABV of 5.1 and an IBU of 20 was what I ordered. Keeping with the area history you could also have a Smokestack Scottish brew with an ABV of 6.2 and an IBU of 16. Copper Nail Nut Brown Ale (5.9 ABV, 28 IBU) is another beer that is named for Black Eagle’s history.
Read those names and you’ll realize that this was once an industrial community with a smelter and a refinery. Much of the workforce in those two businesses made their home in Black Eagle.
Black Eagle brewmeister T J Carlson got his start as a home brewer. He’s developed recipes for a Tangerine Cream
Ale made with flaked oats to make it a lighter beer and a coffee-tinged Mocha Porter. Both are canned and available in local stores. Carlson has his standard brews and some are seasonal.
Let’s circle back to my Smelter Men Ale – that was a tasty brew! I was expecting something not so pale (because of the Smelter Men name!) but I thought it was a good beer for my typical pale-ale-request. Another beer ordered for our table was Black Eagle IPA (ABV 73, IBU 61). That’s not my style although I had a sip, but it was met with good reviews by a beer drinker who is far more experienced than I am. Next time I’m going to try the Tangerine Cream Ale.
On the main bar there was an interesting display of the different grains used to brew the varieties of beer at Black Eagle Brewery. The farming area in this part of Montana is called The Golden Triangle for all of the grain grown. Malt barley and other grains go into most area brews so that beer you order just may be supporting local agriculture.
Black Eagle may sound like an odd name for a community but we also have Black Eagle Falls nearby, named after Meriwether Lewis waxed poetically about seeing a black eagle on an island near there. The local post office was dubbed Black Eagle in 1917.
Prior to 1982 the smelter’s smokestack was part of the skyline for anyone arriving in Black Eagle and Great Falls from the north. When the smelter closed, the “stack” began to deteriorate. Efforts to raise funds to stabilize it didn’t meet their goal and the stack was imploded, forever altering the skyline. S.O.S. IPA (ABV 6, IBU 59) pays homage to that effort (Save Our Stack).
According to census data there are nearly 1,000 people in Black Eagle. Anaconda Hills Golf Course is on the east edge of the community, named for the Anaconda Company who ran the smelter. Going back in history even prior to Anaconda Company, the smelter was owned by the Boston and Montana Company. An old barn from the Boston and Montana Company sits on the golf course. At one time it provided housing for mules that pulled carts during the smelting process.
Black Eagle has two well-known restaurants, local favorites Borrie’s and the 3D, operating since the 1930’s. There is also a community center with a bowling alley and several other local watering holes.
Two bridges over the Missouri River connect Great Falls and Black Eagle although some people don’t realize they are leaving one town and entering another.
All this history is making me thirsty so let’s tip another brew to honor the hard-working folks who built the community known as Black Eagle!