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Bunkhouse Brewery

Sidle On Up

In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, a bunkhouse is described as “a long, rectangular building” with whitewashed walls and unpainted floors, with bunks “showing their burlap ticking” and shelves “loaded with little articles, soap and talcum powder, razors and those Western magazines ranch men love to read and scoff at and secretly believe.”

Fortunately, the Bunkhouses you will find in Bozeman are much more jovial places. Tucked between MSU’s Alumni Foundation and Jimmy John’s, at 1216 West Lincoln Street, the first of the two Bunkhouse Breweries opened in 2015. A second location opened at 7715 Shedhorn Drive in Four Corners in early 2022. Serving anywhere from eight to 14 beers, Bunkhouse Brewery has grown into a local favorite, where owners Andy and Beth Stohlmann can often be found pouring beer for customers themselves.

The only brewery with more than one location in Bozeman, Bunkhouse can now accommodate thirsty folks on both ends of town. The Lincoln location is more intimate, with a capacity of 49 and a shaded wrap-around patio, where friendly leashed dogs are welcome. This Bunkhouse started as a little-known hole in the wall, the ambiance of which remains, where anyone from the aforementioned rancher to doctoral students to families gather for merriment.

The 4C Taproom can accommodate more people, with a capacity of 150, including the upstairs mezzanine, or “Top Bunk”, which can be reserved for special events. This Bunkhouse hosts weekly open mic Mondays and trivia Thursdays, and both locations have Tuesday cribbage league. There are special events, like their May anniversary party and last year’s Bunktober, which saw around 1,000 folks come through in all.

Now, about the beers. The selection includes something for everyone, with various porters, IPAs, sours, blondes, and the always-on-tap Sabino Red, which is malty with notes of red, and Running Iron IPA, it’s a balanced brew, with bitterness and pine notes. Most are rotators; the Stohlmanns pride themselves on keeping their beers interesting. “When we’re busy, we put on two new beers every month,” said Andy. Even the names are entertaining; a personal favorite: “We Get It, You Tele!”

A pilot by trade, Andy Stohlmann has been a home-brewing enthusiast since his time with the Air Force in Germany, when returned home to find that he could no longer purchase his favorite beer (Maisel Weisse) in the U.S. at that time. “A good friend of ours was a home brewer and said, ‘I can just teach you how to make it,’ and the rest was a series of poor life choices,” he winked. “I came here to teach ROTC at MSU, and that kept us here.” Beth Stohlmann had sworn she’d never be an entrepreneur like her parents and joined the Air Force as a foreign area officer and intelligence professional. But, “I thought I married a pilot,” she laughed. “I married an entrepreneur.”

And why the name “Bunkhouse”? Because it gives recognition to Montana’s farming and ranching culture, especially its frontier heritage. Bunkhouses are historically as Steinbeck described – small, rough buildings providing barracks-like sleeping quarters to cowboys and the like. The intention is to evoke the days when workers gathered to share some pints after a long day of work; not so different at these Bunkhouses today. Except you do have to leave eventually – you don’t have to go home, but you can’t bunk there.

One thing is certain – both locations give Cheers energy. The Stohlmanns are partial to cultivating community, and it shows. “I was asked how the pandemic affected our business, and I have a very clear memory of the shut-down,” said Beth. “Our regulars would line up down the sidewalk, 6 feet apart, so that they could come to pick up their growlers – many came with envelopes of cash for our staff so that they could continue to pay their bills. It’s so cool to watch people greet each other and be involved in each other’s lives….the silver lining is that the pandemic uncovered what was there; I don’t know that I would have seen that otherwise.”

Few things beat sitting on a sunny patio with your favorite beer in the Montana sunshine. Bunkhouse Brewery is one such option as we embrace summertime, and if you missed the original Bunkhouse when it opened, no time like the present to seek it out – or visit the new Bunkhouse in Four Corners. Or call an Uber, drink responsibly, and visit both!