The Parent Teacher Association and a love for home brewing brought David McKeever, Nicholas Diehl and Mick Mondloch together.
Now, the three friends and their spouses are opening up Crooked Furrow Brewing in early 2018 near the Custer Interchange. Diehl and McKeever have both been home brewers for over a decade and joined a home-brewing club together five years ago. Mondloch got involved after his wife met McKeever’s wife through the PTA.
“I heard there was free beer,” he said.
Mondloch said the home-brewed beer was some of the best he’d tasted in Helena and encouraged the other two to take their recipes and start a brewery. Crooked Furrow, a reference to planting seeds crooked, represents the path the trio took before committing to the brewery. Both McKeever and Diehl spent years talking about it over home-brewed beer before Mondloch gave a final push to make it a reality.
While McKeever and Mondloch will keep their full-time jobs, Diehl recently quit his to focus on the brewery. He’ll be the head brewer and manage day to day operations, Diehl said. While the brewery will have some staples such as an IPA, they plan to incorporate different styles in small batches to experiment.
“The home brewing is tweaking the recipe for what we’re going to go commercial with,” McKeever said.
All of the owners agree that the beer they brew should be clean, crisp and refreshing.
As of now, the building is gutted and being rebuilt to host the brewery and a taproom. McKeever said there’s been plenty of curve balls so far but the families are enjoying the process.
“When you’re dream is coming true it’s definitely worth it,” he said.
The entire country has experienced a craft beer boom over the last decade. According to Business Insider, the industry has an economic impact of $23.5 billion and well over 5,000 operating breweries.
Montana is one of the top states in the country for the number of breweries opened per capita. According to the Department of Revenue, there are 82 businesses in Montana with a Domestic Brewery License. While larger cities like Missoula, Billings and Bozeman can be expected to have a craft beer audience, small Montana towns are experiencing similar success. Breweries are operating in Lavina, Wibaux and Sheridan. A report from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana prepared for the Montana Brewers Association estimated that craft brewing funds more 1,000 full-time jobs and $33 million in personal income to the state’s economy.
There are three breweries operating in Helena and a fourth, called Snow Hop Brewery, is slated to open this winter. Crooked Furrow will be the fifth, but the owners don’t think Helena has reached market saturation.
“If you build it they will come,” Diehl said.