Brewery Tanks
Mar 2, 2023
Flathead Beacon

Historic Beers at the Patriotic American Brewery

By Maggie Dresser

In the 1770s, when George Washington was fighting for independence in the 13 colonies, he was also crafting beer for himself and his troops, prompting historians to describe the nation’s first President as a pioneer for the American beer industry during the Revolutionary War.

As the legend goes, Gen. Washington’s favorite beer was the Philadelphia Porter, which became popular just before America’s independence from England. But the porter that was brewed more than two centuries ago was a much lighter beer than what is typically produced today.

In a nod to early American history, Matt Hegstad, the co-founder of the Patriotic American Brewery, has developed a more traditional porter at his new brewery in Evergreen, which he calls the Pre-Prohibition Porter. Following the end to prohibition, Matt said the porter evolved into a darker, stronger brew.

“Modern American forms of the porter can be really aggressive with their flavors and aroma and everything, and ours is just less aggressive — it’s approachable,” Matt said.

Matt says the Pre-Prohibition Porter is his second favorite beer to talk about at the 2,000-square-foot brewery that he owns with his wife, assistant brewer Josie Hegstad. His favorite beer to talk about is the Kentucky Common – another historic American beer that originated in Louisville in the 1850s.

“It was a very popular beer style up until prohibition,” Matt said. “It’s a really light-bodied, easy-drinking beer.”

Matt first learned about the Kentucky Common while attending the Brewing Academy of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. He and his classmates brewed it while they were in school, and he describes it as highly carbonated and comparable to an amber ale.

While they also brew classic beers such as the New England IPA, called the Independence, the D.T.O.M. American IPA and the Patriot, an American Wheat Beer, Matt says he’s fascinated with early American history and chose to brew beers that were consumed around the time of the Revolutionary War.

The brewery’s patriotic theme also reflects Matt’s five active years in the U.S. Army, a period during which he was based out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, with deployments in Bosnia and Iraq. Following the Army, he worked as a sheriff’s deputy in North Dakota, where he met his now-wife, Josie.

Graduating from Libby High School, Matt said his years in the far corner of northwest Montana also shaped his views on patriotism.

“I’ve always been really patriotic,” Matt said. “Even before the military and everything — just being from Libby. It’s a working-class community and very veteran oriented.”

Josie also holds strong patriotic views after working at the sheriff’s office in North Dakota as a 911 dispatcher and a corrections officer. While she never served in the military, she said much of her family has.

The Hegstads met in 2009 during the oil boom in Stanley, North Dakota, when they were both working for the sheriff’s office. Following her stint in law enforcement, Josie worked as a lease operator in the oil fields where she managed 25 oil wells.

“We used to vacation here and went to all the breweries — we called it a brew-cation,” Josie said. “In 2015, Matt started homebrewing and started mulling around the idea of opening up a brewery.”

After about a decade working in North Dakota, where the Hegstads are both from originally, they moved to the Flathead Valley in 2018, gave birth to a daughter, and Matt enrolled in the brewery academy.

Five years later, they opened the Patriotic American Brewery in February with five flagship beers. They plan to offer three more flagship beers in the future with rotating seasonal taps. An Irish Red is currently in the works and will be on tap leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.

All veterans and first responders receive $1 off pints and the brewery will soon have a Coin Club – similar to a mug club – where members get 25% off all beer, 10% off merchandise and a free birthday beer.

The brewery will eventually have food trucks outside, patio seating and live music.

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