Bigfork brewery expands with new lounge

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  • From left, Flathead Lake Brewing Company Pubhouse Owner Sandy Johnston, Pubhouse Manager Nicole Harker and Marketing Manager Sarah Peterson in the Cellar, the new space at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company in Bigfork. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    One of the seating areas in the Cellar, the new space at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company in Bigfork.

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    THE deck at the Cellar at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company offers a view of Flathead Lake.

  • From left, Flathead Lake Brewing Company Pubhouse Owner Sandy Johnston, Pubhouse Manager Nicole Harker and Marketing Manager Sarah Peterson in the Cellar, the new space at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company in Bigfork. (Brenda Ahearn photos/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    One of the seating areas in the Cellar, the new space at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company in Bigfork.

  • 2

    THE deck at the Cellar at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company offers a view of Flathead Lake.

Flathead Lake Brewing Company is getting back to its roots as it expands into a new lower-level space known as the Cellar. The downstairs area debuted in mid-August with cozy seating, a dance floor, an outdoor deck and other new amenities.

“We wanted to create a space that was original to more of our Woods Bay brewery,” explained owner Sandy Johnston.

The brewing company moved out of its Woods Bay location in 2014 and completely closed that facility at the end of 2017. Since then, the Bigfork establishment has flourished in the style of a sit-down restaurant and bar. Johnston, General Manager Nicole Harker and Marketing Manager Sarah Peterson wanted to bring back more of the “pub house” feel of their original space, so they delved into the Cellar.

“We definitely are a brewery first, but we’re really about a family atmosphere and a place where everyone can come,” stated Johnston. To create this relaxed, family-friendly space, The Cellar is decked out in cushy seats and couches, as well as a stage and dance floor. Some of the walls are painted in chalkboard paint, so children can draw decorations and adults can write about their favorite beer. Outside, there’s a deck with shuffleboard and an expansive view of Flathead Lake.

As patrons lounge in the new space, they can also peer into the sour beer room where Flathead Lake Brewing plans to experiment with special sour brews. These are created with a “a different yeast strand that contaminates the regular brews, so it has to have a separate location,” Johnston explained. “So we knew we wanted to set a space apart to get our sours going because I think that’s what we’re really getting known for.”

Peterson explained how they designed the new space to complement the existing operations upstairs. “It was the best of both worlds to have upstairs be more [of a place to] come and eat, and then down here is more of a wonderful, relaxing lounge area,” Johnston clarified.

The Cellar is complete with a full bar, including 14 taps. They also serve appetizers in Mason jars and will soon draw on Johnston’s Chicago background to add deep-dish pizza. The goal was to create a place where “people can come…but not necessarily feel like they have to eat,” Johnston said. “We wanted to create more of a place where people can come and hang out and relax.”

They celebrated their soft opening on Aug. 15 and on Aug. 25 held the first of many planned Sunday night music nights, another tradition hearkening back to their Woods Bay days. They will also be moving popular events such as Science on Tap and Tuesday Toasts into this expanded space. There are future plans for ladies nights, comedy nights, movie nights and a “huge Halloween party” as well. “We plan on doing a lot of community events,” Harker promised.

So far, Johnston reported, “People have been loving the space. I think people really got excited with the feel of the place…It’s got this fun vibe that’s sort of chic, however, a lot of people feel very relaxed here because they feel like it’s very homey.

“Down in Bigfork, a lot of people drive up to Whitefish for big events,” said Johnston. “There’s no reason that we can’t start holding some of those bigger events down here as well…and kind of connect the valley a little more.”

Flathead Lake Brewing Company is located at 116 Holt Drive in Bigfork. For the first month, the Cellar is open every day from 4 to 10 p.m.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.

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