Flathead Lake Brewing closing Woods Bay location

November 2, 2017 GMT

Flathead Lake Brewing Company is closing down its Woods Bay taproom and brewing facility at the end of this year.

David Brendgard, director of brewery operations, said the decision was a difficult one for the company, but one they made so the brewery could invest more into the Bigfork location and ultimately serve clientele more effectively.

“We understand that our Woods Bay location has been a staple of the Bigfork community, and we are regretful to shut that down,” Brendgard said. “We are planning on operating through the end of the year, so our tentative closing date is Dec. 30.”

The Woods Bay location is on Montana 35 across the highway from The Raven brewpub and the waters of Flathead Lake. It opened in 2004.

Brewing capacity at the site is about 1,200 barrels. Each barrel holds 31 gallons of beer.

A big determining factor in the decision to close down the facility was a Montana law mandating that beer for distribution is canned at the same facility it is brewed, Brendgard said. The retail side of the brewery’s business has been growing and the company now distributes across Montana.

To meet that demand and future goals to distribute outside the state, the company decided it would simply be more effective to relocate all brewing operations under the roof of the newer Bigfork facility, where they package the beer they brew for distribution. The Bigfork facility is large enough to produce as much as 9,000 barrels at a time, more than enough to take over the Woods Bay production, Brendgard said.

“We do have room within this current facility to expand within the future, and we are planning on putting a very small experimental brew house in here,” Brendgard said.

The Woods Bay location was often the home of some of the experimental seasonal products of the brewery. Brendgard said its closure does not mean that experimentation is over. On the contrary, they recently bought a labeling machine so they can buy blank cans and get the experimental brews on shelves in their distribution area as well as on tap - an option that wasn’t possible before.

“What we are really looking for is to get as many beers as possible out in cans to as many people as we can within our current and future markets,” Brendgard said. “We were limited in production and canning by operating two separate brew houses in two separate facilities.”

He also said the company would be taking efforts to make regular customers at the Woods Bay location feel good in the bigger Bigfork facility.

“We’ll be bringing up the bar top and painting and a lot of the décor of the Woods Bay tap house to our tap house up here to create the same feel and the same environment,” Brendgard said.

Flathead Lake Brewing Company doesn’t own the building that housed the Woods Bay brewery, so Brendgard said he wasn’t sure what would take its spot. He also said the building was for sale.

“We feel for the success of [the brewery] we need to move forward within the company,” Brendgard said. “It is not an easy decision ... to close Woods Bay, but we also promise to create quality beer for all our beer lovers within the new location.”

Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or pfrissell@dailyinterlake.com.