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The Best Bars in Missoula

Montana’s bar scene is colorful and diverse like its surrounding natural scenery. From casual bars with some of the best beer around to upscale craft-brew spots to lively and family-friendly sports bars, you’ll likely be spoilt for choice in some of the best bars in Missoula.

Beer is a firm favorite and an integral part of the local culture in Missoula as demonstrated by the various bars, taprooms, and distilleries in the town. This is a great part of Montana to grab a beer and a bite to eat, and whatever kind of vibe you are looking for in a bar you’ll find it in Missoula.

Eight of the Best Missoula Bars

eight of the best missoula bars
Image: Djembayz
  1. The Rhinoceros
  2. James Bar
  3. Top Hat Lounge
  4. Tamarack Brewing Company
  5. The Badlander
  6. Iron Horse Brew Pub
  7. The Press Box
  8. Charlie B’s

1. The Rhinoceros

the rhinoceros
Image: The Rhinoceros

The “Rhino,” as it’s affectionately known, has been a staple in Missoula for more than 30 years, and offers a tavern-like atmosphere in Montana style. Here you’ll find more than 50 beers on tap leaning mostly towards the local and the craft, and the same amount of single-malt scotches available.

With plenty of limited-edition options and daily specials on offer, the Rhino has a kind of speakeasy vibe indoors that includes free pool and shuffleboard, while there is a nice open beer garden for the warmer weather.

What to Try

Look out for the specials which change on a daily basis such as the 32 oz can of ‘High Life’ for $4 on Sundays.

2. James Bar

james bar
Image: James Bar

The owners of James Bar opened the doors in 2007 with the intention of offering a somewhat more cultured Montana bar experience than what they had seen before.

There’s plenty of quality beer, whisky, spirits, wine, and specials all served to the musical backdrop that gives the place a vibrant and lively feel. You can also enjoy high-quality, local-flavored cuisine in the friendly and accommodating atmosphere of James Bar.

What to Try

Local draught beer favorites such as the Kettle House Cold Smoke Scotch Ale and the Blackfoot Brewing IPA accompany a range of burgers, sliders, and other mouth-watering bar snacks.

3. Top Hat Lounge

Top Hat Lounge is another Missoula staple that is not only a great bar but is also a local live entertainment hot spot. You wouldn’t believe that this place has been around for the best part of 70 years when witnessing the polished, modern interior and wide range of upscale craft beers and such like.

The on-tap beers are numerous, the cocktails are trendy, and there’s an impressive food menu with a few thoughtful options like antibiotic-free chicken, wild-caught tuna, and a good few other specific dietary options including paleo and vegan. To top that there’s a nice outdoor patio area from which to soak up the evenings in the warmer months.

What to Try

Maybe a pickled avocado chicken sandwich or a Wisconsin cheddar burger with grass-fed beef. In terms of beer, there are the local draught favorites such as the Bitter Root Single Hop or the Kettlehouse Cold Smoke.

4. Tamarack Brewing Company

 

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The Tamarack Brewing Company opened its Missoula branch in 2011, serving the same great food and drink found in its other location in Lakeside. Located downtown in Missoula, overlooking the Caras Park and the Clark Fork River, this is a sports bar affair with two floors that combine both a fun, sports pub environment downstairs and a slightly more subdued and subtle vibe upstairs.

Great food and drink is available, as are a range of specials, not least of all the company’s own great Montana craft beer. This is a family-friendly bar that is open daily from 11 am for great beer, food, and 2 happy hours!

What to Try

Flagship option Lakeside APA is a Pale Ale with a caramel tinge and fine malts combined with a citrus hop and mildly sweet undertones.  Or something seasonal like the Elk Snort Scotch Ale with its malty and dark sweet caramel flavors with a hint of chocolate and a full-bodied 7.2% volume.

5. The Badlander

Another great bar and live entertainment venue, this time set in a historic brick building. Its low lighting and dark, rustic backdrop make it an ideal place for lounging and drinking or listening to live entertainment.

There is a reasonable space for dancing if you fancy getting on down to the DJ sound system or live band, and there are always drink specials. The venue has a full bar food menu featuring wings, sliders, burgers, etc., and the range of draught beers includes all the best locally produced brands.

What to Try

How about a special local cocktail by way of an Orphan Girl Coffee or a Huckleberry Lemonade from Willie’s Local Distillery

6. Iron Horse Brew Pub

iron horse brewpub
Image: Iron Horse Brew Pub

With a 30-year heritage and a name that reflects the town’s local history, the Iron horse is an integral part of Missoula’s bar scene.

The bar has a distinct ‘Modern West’ vibe to it that works perfectly with the surrounding college-town environment. It has a range of local brews including a selection of microbrewery craft beers as well as bottled options, and a decent menu with everything from hummus to bison on it.

What to Try

Check out the seasonal drinks for special offerings such as the Can ‘O Bliss and the Mimosa Sour, and the mouth-watering food menu’s offerings like the Nachos and Beer-battered Halibut.

7. The Press Box Sports Bar

the press box sports bar
Image: The Press Box Sports Bar

Here we have a home-from-home sports bar where you can settle in, enjoy a local beer, and take in a game without seeming distraction if needs be.

The Press Box has been showing some kind of game or other on its screens since 1982 (and particularly those featuring the Montana Grizzlies), which is one of the reasons it has become the go-to place for many locals looking for a decent brew while they catch up on their favorite team’s exploits.

You’ll find close to 20 local draught beers on tap here, and a variety of the bar’s own signature cocktails.

What to Try

Maybe the Prickly Pear Pale Ale straight out of Helena, or perhaps more fittingly the Missoula-produced Big Sky IPA.   You’ll also find all the usual bar snack favorites from nachos and wings to burgers at the Press Box.

8. Charlie B’s

Known locally as a dive bar, Charlie B’s has become a part of the scenery in Missoula over the decades. It is the kind of place where you’ll find pretty much everyone from seasoned old bar-stool retirees to college students somewhere close to the bar or pool table.

But the secret weapon of Charlie B’s is reportedly the Dinosaur Cafe at the backroom eatery section of the bar that cooks up some of the best southern-style Cajun food you are likely to find in this or any other region.

From the outside, the bar has a distinctly understated appearance and looks like nothing special. What goes on inside though has made the place into something of a local icon over the years. Charlie B’s is a unique and characteristic place that has won numerous awards over the years, including the Esquire accolade of being one of the “15 bars you should drink in before you die”. So you get the picture.

What to Try

Check out some of the Cajun and Creole specialties like Gumbo and Cajun Stew that the Dinosaur Café has become renowned for.

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