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minuteman beer

Minuteman Pale Ale was brewed and canned just for the air show at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.

Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. is celebrating this weekend's air show at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls by satiating those 21 and older on the ground.

Brewery owner Max Pigman was approached last winter by someone who is part of the 341 Force Support Squadron on the base and was interested in doing something special for the big air show.

“She was wondering if we would be open to creating a can for a beer,” Pigman said. “At that time it wasn’t really possible to make a small canning run. Over the last several months, it has become more possible. You pay more for it so it will be one of those beers we don’t really make money on, but it’s fun to do in support of what they are doing.”

The marketing department on base created the label and description that goes on the can.

“We knew it was coming and brewed the beer,” Pigman said. “We knew we wanted something that would be fairly likeable across the realm of beer drinkers. So, we made it a pale ale and did something special by using whole flower dried hops.”

Most brewers use pellet hops, so the whole flower dried hops were a special order. The kind used in this pale ale is an Amarillo hops, which imparts a different nose. The aroma is slightly citrusy, and it has a mellow orange flavor.

“It’s a very drinkable pale ale made from Montana-malted and grown barley right up the road, north of Great Falls,” Pigman said.

This batch of beer is not large enough to be a fundraiser or money maker, Pigman said. “It’s just to give more exposure and to honor and commemorate the military in general and specifically the Minuteman program.”

On June 15, 1956, Great Falls Air Force Base was designated as Malmstrom Air Force Base, and in 1959 Malmstrom was selected to host the first Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Base.

“They were part of the cold war and a big part of the reason a lot of people say they were President John F Kennedy's 'Ace in the Hole' during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962," Pigman said. 

Pigman is an Air Force veteran and said that because of his nine year enlistment, he tends to be a bit more understanding of the military and military issues.

“I’m open and available to military in general,” he said. “I understand better some of the challenges the military and family members go through. I definitely have a more sensitive ear to military issues. … When the phone call came and it was MWR, which I recognized as Morale, Welfare and Recreation, I certainly was more open to try and help them get exposure and commemorate what they’ve done.”

The air show started Saturday and will continue Sunday at Malmstrom. The event is free and open to the public, and aerial demonstrations begin at 11 a.m.

The beer is available on base in cans and on tap. A few kegs and cases have been saved for the Helena tap room. However, since it is a limited run, there is a one case limit per person and only about 25 cases available.

The cost for cans on a limited batch is about three times the cost of a big batch, and the labels are a shrink wrap sleeve instead of paint. While his small batch capability is limited, Pigman said he is building a cold storage building where he can store more cans. This will enable him to do more small runs in the future.

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City Editor

Assistant editor at the Helena Independent Record.

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