Spirits and brews of the Big Sky
Story and photos by Jessica Lowry
When Clarence John Montgomery returned to his Hilger ranch each evening after a long day working, his family remembers him sitting down in the old farmhouse’s worn kitchen so he could pour himself his favorite drink, a few fingers of Johnnie Walker Red old scotch whiskey and 7UP.
Over the years, Clarence’s hard work raising cattle and growing wheat, oats and barley grew into an expansive agricultural business that included seven ranches, stretching outside from Hilger south to Lewistown and across the Hi-Line and Central Montana.
Until he passed in 2013, his drink of choice remained the same.
What Clarence probably didn’t know is that his business acumen – close ties to the land and love of a well-made drink – would influence the career paths of not just one, but two of his 18 grandchildren.
Today, Evan Bowser, 29, as the owner of Bowser Brewing Company in Great Falls, and his cousin, Ryan Montgomery, 36, as the head of Montgomery Distillery in Missoula, operate businesses pouring finely crafted brews and spirits created from ingredients mostly found in Montana.
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