"It's a tough job to do, but someone has to do it!" Amanda Beckers Sowden says this, of course, in reference to drinking beer on family vacations, because—undoubtedly—it's important research for her labor of love, Bar MT.
The bar had always been her favorite. In fact, she spent most of her twenties there, growing up on the patio during college, and watching it be revitalized during her childhood. It was constantly at the mercy of whomever was at its helm, and it nosedived a lot. It has had several different identities over the years and when it came available, Amanda jumped on the chance to be a steward of its historic value and treasure for the community.
"I'm a big believer in timing," says Amanda. And she should be because her story with Bar MT has really come full circle. "When I was in college, I actually met my husband at that location," back before it was Bar MT. She also fell in love with the leather belted fans that squeaked if they weren't oiled enough, and the old railroad posters, the old bar. The fact that "Far and Away" was shot there.
"But it's like the classy old, instead of just old," laughs Amanda. The building is actually owned by the City of Billings and the Depot nonprofit rents it from the city, and then they rent it to Amanda. To save it from the constant change of hands, Amanda knew it needed to offer something different, and perhaps something ahead of its time.
"Billings is always a good five to seven years behind," says Amanda, and we love Billings for this. But the important work of leaving Billings to see what is out there, and what could be brought back to the bar, is crucial to its survival. There are about 28 beers on tap and nearly 100 regional beers that you can try, making it a hot tourist stop for a taste of this region.
Since 2019, Bar MT has become a judgment-free zone. "If you like craft beer but your friend likes Bud Light, you can come here. If you like craft beer, or beer, and your wife only drinks wine, you can come here. It crosses some of those boundaries instead of just being this craft beer bar where you have to know too much."