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Maggie Doherty & Cole Schneider

Kalispell Brewing Company

“We choose to live in Montana because we love it here, and it means a lot to us that we feel like we can contribute to our community by providing this gathering place…This is really living our dream.”

As Kalispell Brewing Company co-owner Maggie Doherty describes it, she and her husband Cole Schneider are “two midwest kids” who chose to pursue their dreams of adventure in Big Sky Country.  They arrived independently nearly a decade ago, met on the slopes of Whitefish Mountain Resort, and today they co-own and run the first craft brewery in downtown Kalispell, Montana to operate since 1955.

Maggie was drawn to Montana years before she made her move out west, recalling a ski trip to Big Sky Resort when she was 13 that changed the course of her life:

“After skiing Big Sky as a teenager I knew I would live in Montana one day.  It wasn’t a matter of ‘if’, it was a matter of ‘when.’"

In 2004, she made her move to Whitefish in the northwestern corner of the state - drawn by the lakes in the region and Glacier National Park. Six years later she met Cole when the two were both training for the 2010 U.S. Telemark Championships that took place at Whitefish Mountain Resort.  They quickly bonded over their mutual love of outdoor recreational pursuits, Montana’s wide open spaces, and - of course - delicious beer.  Several months prior to their September 2012 wedding, the pair began thinking about their careers after competitive skiing:

“We were looking at what was really fulfilling to us; and what would allow us to continue living the life we love in Montana.  The conversation just naturally kept coming back to opening a brewery here.”

Cole and Maggie were living in Whitefish at the time, but saw a great market opportunity in opening a 15 minutes south in Kalispell. Maggie in particular fell in love with the community’s historic architecture and welcoming atmosphere.  When they found an available building at 412 Main Street (on the corner of Fourth and Main), Maggie and Cole both knew they had found the future home for Kalispell Brewing Company.  With bootstrap savings and some family help, Cole and Maggie bought the building in March 2012.

After over two years of extensive remodeling and refurbishing (the building had previously housed a car dealership and nearly every system from HVAC to wiring needed to be replaced), Kalispell Brewing Company opened its doors to the public on June 19, 2014.  As Maggie recalls, the positive community reception was almost overwhelming:

“We’ve been humbled by the response from our community. People are very excited about having us downtown, and that has been amazing for us."

As Kalispell Brewing Company’s Head Brewer, Cole has been able to draw on his experience as a home brewer, first acquired during his college years at the University of Wisconsin in the ‘beer mecca’ of Madison.  If his website bio is to be believed, that first batch brewed in 2002 was “terrible.”  Fortunately for the Flathead Valley’s craft beer enthusiasts, he’s come a long way since.  Today, Kalispell Brewing Company is one of only three breweries in the state using the traditional German brewing process of decoction, allowing them to specialize in German beers and a series of Pacific Northwest-inspired ales.  The crowd the brewery regularly hosts in its taproom or on its patio overlooking the Swan Mountains is proof that Cole’s hobby has certainly become a fine craft.

As Kalispell Brewing Company’s Beer Ambassador and Public Relations person, Maggie is combining her years of experience in the food and beverage service industry with a naturally outgoing personality.  She’s currently working with Cole and the rest of their team to increase Kalispell Brewing Company’s wholesale capacity in order to distribute to more regional bars and restaurants. But, her ultimate goal for the brewery is to remain focused on providing a family-friendly, laid-back atmosphere, even as the brewery continues to grow.  For both Cole and Maggie, adding to the sense of community in downtown Kalispell is central to every decision they make about their business:

“We choose to live in Montana because we love it here, and it means a lot to us that we feel like we can contribute to our community by providing this gathering place…This is really living our dream.”


Categories: Entrepreneur Profiles, Breweries and DistilleriesNumber of views: 2695