Resurrect Beer Project: Deer Lodge Brewery • Hop Culture
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4.28.17

Resurrect Beer Project: Deer Lodge Brewery

This week we go to Montana, for weird laws, weirder festivals, and a whole lot of fly fishing.

Written by PJ Engel

Images by PJE

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Drinking Alone


The solo beer gets stigmatized, but we’ll take one any day.

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In early 2017, we heard about a gentleman from Upstate New York who was beginning an ambitious project. With “Resurrect Beer,” designer PJ Engel is creating new branding and packaging for a defunct brewery from each state. The project is a fascinating lesson in history, design, and culture.

This week in the #ResurrectSeries I examine Deer Lodge Brewery from Deer Lodge, Montana. Opened for ten years from 1874–1884, Deer Lodge left no breweriana to indicate what they may have looked like, or brewed. So I gave the brand a slightly rustic look to fit the identity of the state, which is an outdoorsman’s destination. I purposely left out antlers to lead the hipsters elsewhere, leaving Deer Lodge to the purists.

Absaroka Ale

Style: Pale ale
ABV: 4.9 percent
Description: During the New Deal era, a group of residents got fed up with FDR. They banded together with the goal to secede and form a new state called Absaroka. The area was part of southeastern Montana, southwestern South Dakota, and northern Wyoming. Named after a local mountain range, this new group went so far as making an official flag (rendered on the can) and license plates. The movement lost steam and Absaroka was never actualized as the 49th state in the U.S. I will give them some props on the flag, though.

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Shadow Casting

Style: Steam Beer
ABV: 5.3 percent
Description: “Keeping his line above water long enough and low enough to make a rainbow rise”. Today’s design is a reference to the movie A River Runs Through It, which grounds itself in the fly fishing of Montana. The Blackfoot River in Missoula is where the Maclean family enjoy what is called the contemplative man’s recreation. I have yet to fly fish, but it’s on the list. As I’ve learned in researching for this theme, the Bitterroot River is a hot spot for fly fishing in the U.S. The steam beer style complements recreation. Traditionally brewed with a high temperature fermentation due to no refrigeration methods, steam beers traveled west with the gold rush and surely made its way into the hands of settlers in Montana. Nowadays, the cans would stay nice and cold in the river while you cast away for dinner.

Double…Ditch

Style: Session IIPA
ABV: 5.3 percent
Description: If you bend your elbow for an adult beverage or two while in Montana, you may hear someone order a drink with the surname “ditch”. Whiskey ditch is a common way to order a whiskey and water. I’ve heard of using the term branch — meaning water — when ordering a drink, but ditch is new to me. This idea of watering down a drink, reminded me of weakening a beer, which lead to the idea of a session IIPA. So here you have it, a heavily hopped lawnmower beer.

Scofflaw Witte

Style: Witte
ABV: 5.1 percent
Description: Queue up Judas Priest for today’s topic. Just like every state, Montana has some weird laws. It’s illegal for married women to fish alone on Sundays. For unmarried women, it’s illegal to fish alone at all. Threatening arrest is a great excuse to mingle with the ladies, especially when there are more cattle than people in the entire state (may the laws be ever in your favor). In Helena, it is illegal to throw something across the street. But then why I’d include the sheep in a flatbed? It’s illegal to leave a sheep in the cab of your truck without a chaperone. Besides predators eating your livestock, I’m not sure what the penalties are for such an offense. I’d like to imagine a public shaming ceremony where you relinquish your herding staff.

St. Urho Brew

Style: Black lager
ABV: 5.8 percent
Description: The story of the patron saint of Finland — St. Urho — is not well known throughout the world. Those who have heard of him know him for driving the grasshoppers out of Finland in order to save the grape crop for winemaking. He is celebrated on the 16th of March with a festival in Butte, Montana. Grasshopper foods are prepared and non-grasshopper foods are made to fit the theme of green and purple to represent the grapes and the insects. If this story sounds very similar to St. Patrick and the snakes, well it is. It was created by Richard Mattison, a Finnish-American who grew tired of hearing the Irish-Americans sing the praises of their saint every year. Originally in Mattison’s tale, Urho drove frogs out of Finland. As the story caught on and the midwest experienced grasshopper plagues in the 19th century, the frogs were changed to grasshoppers. The celebration is popular throughout the midwest from Minnesota to Montana. The date may stand out as well because it was also chosen to beat out the Irish celebration by one day.

Next Week: Atlanta, Georgia