Posted by: greatfallsgirl | October 18, 2009

Great Falls Select Beer

I was just an elementary school kid when the brewery shut down in 1968, but I remember the brewery on the west side of Great Falls well.  My dad hoisted a GFS often when I was growing up, and although I have heard good and bad about the beer, I think it was a matter of pride….being proud of our own hometown beer that promoted it’s popularity.  Again, it was kind of hard to find anything extensive about it, but here is a good blog article about Great Falls Select Beer:

Remembering Great Falls Select Beer

April 8th, 2009 by Awe

beerGreat Falls Select Beer was my beer of choice during the salad days of my youth in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I was concerned when the Brewery was bought out by Blitz-Weinhard in 1966, and even more upset when all brewing was transferred to their Portland plant in 1968.  However, I remained loyal to the brand until it was discontinued around 1980.

By the mid-70’s my taste in beer products had moved towards Guinness Stout; but, for a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon, I still drank Great Falls Select.  Sometime around 1979 or 1980 I read that Blitz-Weinhard were discontinuing my favorite brew.  By that date Great Falls Select and Highlander were the only beers left that still had an old Montana label (Highlander then being brewed in Seattle, not Missoula).  Upon hearing the bad news I instantly drove to the last place that I knew that carried the beer, and purchased four-cases (all that they had left).

I wrote a letter to Blitz-Weinhard that asked several questions, and to my surprise, they wrote back answers.  They wrote that they had continued the original recipe when they operated in Great Falls; but, when brewing was transferred to Portland the Blitz-Weinhard standard recipe was used.  They regretted that Great Falls Select had to be discontinued, and apologized that they were too small a company to afford much advertising to promote the brand.  They had hoped that the brand name would continue to appeal to Montanans.  About a decade later, Blitz-Weinhard itself was bought
my a national brewery.

I have been told that the Harvest Moon Brewing Company of Belt, Montana, is again making Great Falls Select.  Does anyone know if they are using the original recipe, the Blitz-Weinhard formula, or something new?

When Great Falls Beer left Montana in 1968 it was the last brewery in Montana, or any state that that touched Montana.  Luckily, today the Big Sky has over twenty operating breweries, which is the third highest per capita in the nation.

Here is a story in the Great Falls Tribune about the brewery burning down in 2007:

Fire guts Great Falls Brewery building

By RYAN HALL and KRISTEN CATES Tribune Staff Writers • November 12, 2007

Great Falls firefighters battled a three-alarm fire at the former Great Falls Brewery Building on 14th Street Southwest late into the evening Sunday and department officials said they expected to continue fighting the blaze through the night.

Training officer Doug Bennyhoff said that as of 9:30 p.m. crews had stopped the growth of the fire, sealing it off from the southern quarter of the building. However, at least a third of the building was considered a total loss, he said. “The northern-most part of the structure has been consumed,” he said, noting a western portion of the building was also destroyed.

beerfireCrews responded shortly before 6 p.m. to reports of smoke coming from the building, Chief Randy McCamley said. Twelve firefighters responded initially and attempted to scout the fire from the interior but the combination of the maze-like layout of the building and a 20-minute supply of air forced them to turn back before seeing any flames, McCamley said. At least one crew member was able to detect what appeared to be fire activity by using a thermal imager. “They’ve gone in as far as they can and run into some active fire activity,” McCamley said about 7 p.m. “We’re really not sure how much of this building is involved.”

As crews attempted to locate the fire, smoke poured out of a window from the northwest corner of the building and then began to seep from a window in the center portion, about 35 feet from the northwest corner. A firefighter busted out several panes of a window to further vent the building. Another grabbed a chainsaw and went around the back of the building. A third took an ax off the truck and headed back into the brewery. “I know we got something big in there, but I don’t know what,” Bennyhoff said. “It’s going good.” Firefighters sprayed water into the brewery through windows, though no flames were visible. Crews walked in and out of the building, getting breaths of fresh air, new air tanks and some water before putting their masks back on and heading back inside. In order to get a better handle on the situation, crews cut a vent hole in the roof of the northwest portion of the old brick brewery as firefighters aimed their hoses into several windows. Flames soon licked at the outside of the building through a window in a smaller section connecting the middle and northwest portions of the brewery.

Soon, 35- to 50-foot flames shot through the roof of the connecting section and then out the side of several windows in the northwest section. Smoke billowed from the building, obscuring the lights of a fire truck, and traveled into the city, pushed by the wind. About 7:20 p.m., the far outside wall on that section crumbled, even while crews attacked the fire with an aerial apparatus and several truck-mounted water nozzles.  The fire was first upgraded to a two-alarm fire, then a third alarm was sent out, calling all off-duty firefighters to the scene, Bennyhoff said. As of 8 p.m., about 27 personnel were on hand to battle the blaze.

The Great Falls Select Brewery opened in in the 1930s. The brewery, which made Great Falls Select, operated until 1968.  The age of the building combined with the fact that occupancy has changed frequently over the past several decades hindered the firefighting effort, McCamley said, adding the situation was “very dangerous” for firefighters.  Crews weren’t sure where the building’s firewall was, or if one existed, making it hard to pinpoint the size of the fire or predict its growth, he said. In addition, with the building having been used for everything from a brewery to storage to a metal fabrication shop — Montana Metal Fabrication is a current tenant — firefighters weren’t sure what type of fuel they were dealing with.  “It’s had a number of uses over the years,” McCamley said.  “We don’t know exactly what is burning in there,” he said. “This thing could get ugly in a hurry.”

Firefighters later determined that the fire was burning in mostly wooden construction, Bennyhoff said.  By 8 p.m., flames were shooting through the roof of three-quarters of the building and the fire was visible through windows and where walls had fallen.  Firefighters used a defensive, or exterior, attack through much of the night because of the fire’s intensity and its effects on the structure, Bennyhoff said.

The Great Falls Police Department responded to the brewery less than two hours before Great Falls Fire/Rescue were called, Sgt. Dean Bennett said. Police were called because of reports of juveniles in the building, but there was no indication that they were responsible for the fire.  “There were some kids in the area prior to the fire being set,” Bennett said. “It’s certainly a possibility.”

“There’s been kids in there all the time,” said Marty Nelson, who lives kitty-corner from the old brewery.  An October 2002 fire inside the vacant brewery was believed to be arson.  Fire officials said no one was injured in Sunday’s fire.  McCamley said that because of the nature and size of the fire, crews expected to be on scene into the morning hours.  “We’re going to be here awhile,” he said.



  1. I love Great Falls, i used to live there, i moved to gf 31 years ago and the first thing i saw was Giant Spings. I will never forget that beautiful day my mother took me there. i stayed in montana for 20 years. i met the love of my life there. the only thing i can remember was when they blow up the smoke stack in Black Eagle, back in the 80s. I live in Arkanas now and i can say when i lived in Montana the winters were brutle and i remember one winter it was 40 below and i was the only fool out on the road! Looking at this web site makes me so happy to Great Falls again. Thank you, from a fellow montanian…..good to see you again!!!!

  2. Very interesting story, here…”Great Falls Select Beer”

    If anyone is interested, I have an authentic/original (not a remake) Insulated Great Falls Select cooler. It is white with red writing and the logo/banner for Gt. Falls Select…I also have an original Gt. Falls Select “churchkey” to go with it…I found them many years ago and just couldn’t pass them up.

    I can be reached at:

  3. I have been told the Great Falls Select recipe was changed slightly now to make it more desirable, but still made off the original recipe. Also in regards to the fire–yes it was started by kids and 4 kids were charged in connection with it and held accountable for trespass and arson.

    • wendy, I believe we are dad (Arne) is Nellies sister. I spoke to your mom before she passed away..we said we need to talk more..unfortunantley we name is Brad Evans.

      • I’m sorry Brad, I don’t know an Arne or a Nellie. Don’t think we are related.

  4. In ’82, while on an Elk hunt in SW Montana, my dad and I stumbled upon several empty cans of Great Falls Select in the woods. Knowing the cans were going for 3 or 4 dollars apiece in the antique stores, we vowed to pick them up before we went back to GF. But of course we could never find them again! They are probably still laying there.:(

  5. I have a few Great Falls Select items I would like to sell and was wondering if anyone on this site would be interested? I have a case of unopened cans, a cooler, couple of ashtrays, serving tray, framed picture, couple of bar glasses, and a bar price list wall hanging


    • I would be interested in pictures and prices of what you have available for sale Lynn. You can call me at work 1-406-268-9614 for an email or cell phone number. Thanks!

      • Hi Wendy Here are the pictures of that stuff, as far as pricing maybe you could help me? if you have any questions you can reach me at 801-616-9259 Thank Lynn



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