Beer city: Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company looking to highlight local agriculture, Great Falls

Things are changing for The Front Brewing Company, but fear not, the Mountain Man scotch ale remains.

Jeremiah Johnson and his wife Katie are finalizing the purchase of the brewing company from Linda Caricaburu and Brad Talcott.

The name will be changing to the Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company and the company is hammering out details of the new branding that’s expected to roll out in the coming months.


Jeremiah and Katie johnson of Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company. Photo courtesy Jeremiah Johnson

The name change “definitely wasn’t my idea,” Johnson said, but it made a lot of sense.

Johnson said people have been asking about his name since he was a kid, thanks to the 1972 movie ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ featuring Robert Redford as the central character – a mountain man.

Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company

Beer from The Front has been popular since it’s establishment and the recipes of the standards like the Mountain Man and Keep Cool Creek blonde won’t change. The head brewer, Tristan Bradford, is also remaining with Johnson’s new company.

But the look will change.

“We wanted to put our own spin on it,” Johnson said.

The brewery will be carrying six canned beers, three will include the staples Mountain Man, the blonde and a citra. The other three will rotate.

Mountain Man

Instead of having trendy, catchy names for the beers, the new cans will carry the brewery name and the type of beer to “cut through the craft brewery noise,” Johnson said. “We want to be really straight forward.”

The new branding strategy is more about letting people know what’s in the can instead of seeing a fun name but having to search the container for a description of what the beer actually is.

Many breweries are making the same kinds of beer, but every one has a different name.

“With all the names, you kind of lose what that kind of beer is,” Johnson said. “Other than Mountain Man, we’re telling you what’s in that can.”

Under the new brand, Johnson said they “want to tell the story of why it’s so awesome to make beer in Great Falls.”

The Great Falls region is the heart of barley production and Johnson’s brewery gets all of their two-row barley malt from Malteurop North America, which also supplies major national brewing companies. Malteurop gets more than 75 percent of its barley from growers in the Golden Triangle, according to Johnson.

“The Great Falls name should be way bigger on the Montana beer map,” Johnson said. “Great Falls needs to become recognized as the beer city of Montana.”

Last month, the company unveiled the Golden Bobcat Pale Ale to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Montana State University.

“The opportunity to do this project with MSU was a big deal for us,” Johnson said.

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The beer is available statewide and it was a chance to highlight local agriculture, the MSU graduate said.

When five varieties of hops are added to a mix of malted barley — most of it produced nearby — and filtered water from the Missouri River, “this brewery has never smelled so good,” said brewmaster Bradford in a MSU release.

“It really brings a lot of Montana agriculture into the taste,” Bradford said of the beer.

The recipe also uses Smoot Honey, which is produced in nearby Power. The local honey is a key ingredient in three of their six core products, Johnson said, and they purchase 3,000 pounds of the sweet stuff at a time.

“We wanted to make a craft beer for MSU that felt like Montana,” Johnson said. “And told the story of agriculture and Great Falls.”

The young Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company has a lot of room to grow, Johnson said, and they’re looking to establish themselves in markets they haven’t yet tapped such as the Flathead area, where Johnson is from.

The company has also developed a partnership with the Mighty Mo Brewing Company that allows them to use Johnson’s brewing facility on 3rd Avenue South for brewing and packaging. That’s a partnership governed under federal regulations and allows Johnson’s facility to use up some extra capacity.

Before the agreement, Mighty Mo had to bring in a mobile canning unit, which was costly. The agreement has allowed Mighty Mo to grow and they’re now distributing in more Montana markets, Johnson said.

Jeremiah Johnson Brewing has also partnered with The Front Public House, which is a separate entity from the brewery, to sponsor a new local rugby team, the Electric City Shockerz, in their inaugural season.

The company will also continue supplying beer at The Front Public House, Johnson said. They’ve also got plans to paint the exterior of the building which is currently a nondescript white structure at the intersection with 6th Street South.

“We want to make great products, cultivate a good workplace and support our community,” Johnson said.