When Cole Schneider and Maggie Doherty met while training for the United States Telemark National Ski Championships, little did they know they’d form two partnerships — marriage and brewery ownership. They both wanted to put down roots in Kalispell, Montana, so they found a 100-year-old building, completely renovated the old car dealership it once was and opened Kalispell Brewing Co. in 2014. Since then, Cole Schneider says they’ve developed 30 different recipes, mostly German-inspired.
German-style lagers are subtler than many modern craft styles and don’t have the esters of excessive hops aroma to hide flaws, Schneider adds. If your process isn’t perfect, it shows. He goes on to explain his nickname, process and the origination of beer names.
How did you get the moniker “The Mad Scientist?”
I credit my wife, Maggie, for that. It reflects the fact that people are generally unaware that brewing requires quite a bit of scientific knowledge. For example, I look into a microscope after staining a sample of yeast with methylene blue to check for visibility, plate a sample of green beer into growth medium to test for microbiological stability and do a sieve analysis of milled malt.
Why do you use the decoction brewing method?
The decoction process, a technique that originated centuries ago in continental Europe, involves removing a portion of the mash, boiling it and then mixing the sample back into the main mash to raise its temperature. High concentrations of sugar and protein, in the presence of heat, tend to combine to form melanoidins. These are the primary substances responsible for the malty, bready flavors you find in beer, so we use this method to make our beers taste maltier.
How do you name your beers?
We don’t have a formal process — we mention to our staff that a new beer needs a name — and somebody comes up with a clever suggestion. Many of our names come from people or places associated with nearby Glacier National Park. In the next few months we’ll be releasing Bearhat Bock (a mountain in the park), Hole in the Wall Hefeweizen (a backcountry campsite) and Joe Cosley IPL (a famous outlaw and ranger in the park).
Why did you choose to open a family-friendly tasting room?
Because our beers are heavily influenced by German styles, we wanted our tasting room to reflect that and feel like a German brauhaus (usually family-friendly).