Historically known as Last Chance Gulch, Helena was a popular destination for settlers during the Montana Goldrush.
While the famous gold-riddled creek has long dried up, the Montana state capital remains a hotspot for exploring the region’s cultural history and natural beauty.
However, many tourists don’t know that as the state capital, Helena also features one of the oldest and most diverse bar scenes in all of Montana.
With bars that date back to the early 20th century, a night out in Helena is like a journey through a time when dive bars were the local respite after a long day of prospecting.
From small-town watering holes to refurbished landmarks, these are the eight best bars in Helena, Montana.
The 8 Best bars in Helena
- The Gold Bar and Western
- Hap’s Beer Parlour
- Lewis and Clark Tap Room
- Windbag Saloon and Grill
- Rialto Bar
- Brewhouse Pub and Grill
- Gulch Distillery
- Black Foot River Brewing Co
The Gold Bar and Western are actually two bars combined into one. The Gold Bar operates from 10 am to 2 am and invites its guests to enjoy fine bar foods and local beers throughout the day.
The space truly becomes alive from 3 pm until close. During this time, both the Gold Bar and The Western simultaneously operate and draw a diverse crowd to their shared building.
Guests are welcomed with 15 drafts on a rotating tap and a large selection of domestic beer, local microbrews, wines, spirits, and specialty cocktails.
For entertainment, The Gold and Western Bars feature pool tables, dart boards, competition length shuffleboard, video game machines, and live music on the weekends.
What to try
The Gold Bar and Western include a variety of Montanan microbrew flavors. In addition, the bar’s kitchen serves a selection of bar food that uses only grass-fed meat raised in the state to accompany your drink.
Established in 1935, Hap’s Beer Parlor has been serving visitors for over 85 years and is an icon among the historic bars in Helena.
Located directly across the street from the old train depot, Hap’s has always been a popular stop for travelers on long rail journeys.
And while traveling by train isn’t as popular as it once was, Hap’s maintains its appeal to locals and tourists thanks to its traditional atmosphere and fun bar activities and events.
Hap’s exciting entertainment services include pool tables, horseshoes, darts, karaoke, sports boards, and casino and gaming machines.
While partaking in the bar games, patrons can enjoy a selection of local craft, and domestic beers served in custom glasses designed to fit with Hap’s rustic design.
What to try
Visiting Hap’s is like revisiting the bar’s heyday when small-town dive bars served as exciting resting points for weary travelers. Order one of the local microbrews served in a custom Hap’s mug to enjoy Montana’s popular bar flavors.
Named after the famous exploring duo, Lewis and Clark Brewing Co has been serving Helena for over 17 years.
While Lewis and Clark Brewing Co’s award-winning beers can be ordered throughout Montana, they are best sampled at their home bar in Helena.
With 19 delicious craft beers on tap and a variety of seltzers in their stock, visitors to the bar will find a drink that satisfies every sort of pallet.
Be sure to visit during the brewing company’s happy hour, which runs daily between noon and 4 pm, to sample an array of beers from the bar’s diverse selection.
Check out Lewis and Clark Brewing Co’s event schedule for a myriad of weekly activities, including trivia, live music, bingo, and other specialty shows.
What to try
Lewis and Clark Brewing Co’s 19 craft beers offer their own unique twists that are worth a taste. Crowd favorites include the Prickly Pear Pale Ale, and the Miner’s Gold Hefeweizen, the winner of a world beer cup gold and silver medal.
The Windbag Saloon and Grill has been serving downtown Helena since 1977. Still, the building the bar occupies is actually much older than that.
Initially built in 1882, The Windbag Saloon building has always been a focal point of the town’s entertainment district and nightlife. It is even listed in the national register of historic places.
Before being converted into the current bar, the building served as a burlesque hall, movie theatre, and bowling alley throughout its long tenure.
But don’t let the age of the building deceive you. Recent renovations have brought a sense of modernity to the building while maintaining its historical integrity.
The full-service bar and kitchen feature a line of local brews on tap served alongside delicious American-style cuisines for the whole Montanan style night out on the town.
What to try
Windbag Saloon’s craft beer selection is best enjoyed over favorite bar foods, such as the Chicken Enchiladas and the Black foot river fish and chips.
For entertainment, the saloon offers a specialty event schedule. Grab some bean bags and check out one of the bar’s more notable corn hole events.
5. Rialto Bar
Rialto Bar began its operations in 1927. In the near-century since, the bar continues to serve a great selection of local crafts, domestic beers, and an array of specialty cocktails and wine that will be sure to satisfy any cravings.
The bar’s local flavors are best sampled during the summer months from the Rialto’s outdoor patio, where guests can enjoy live music and bar games.
The bar’s on-site casino features twenty casino machines and one poker game for patrons seeking to try their luck at a game of chance.
What to try
The historical building of Rialto bar is a beautiful spot to admire the town’s heritage while enjoying the many flavors of Montana.
The friendly atmosphere and welcoming vibes make the Rialto one of the best bars in Helena and a social hot spot for locals and tourists alike.
With 18 draft beers from nine different local Montanan Breweries, 2 domestic drafts, and a selection of domestic and import bottles, spirits, and liqueurs, the Brewhouse Pub and Grill has one of the largest drink selections of all the bars in Helena.
Offering extensive kitchen services on two floors, the family-friendly bar offers amenities for adults and children alike.
In the summer, the Brewhouse opens its upstairs patio that features outdoor seating with views that overlook the beautiful region surrounding downtown Helena.
The brewhouse pub is an excellent spot for a casual night out with friends and family, or even to just grab an evening drink.
What to try
Brewhouse Pub and Grill offers an extensive menu that features burgers, pizza, pasta, and salads.
Enjoy your meal in the bar’s downstairs service area, or take your meal and drink to the upstairs patio and enjoy the flavors of Montana with the breathtaking views of downtown Helena.
Craft beer runs king in Helena, and Gulch Distillery aims to break itself away from the competition by providing the only distillery and tasting room in the entire city.
Established in 2012, Gulch Distillery features spirits crafted using exclusively Montana-grown grains. They offer 9 varieties of spirits that include different forms of whiskey, gin, vodka, and brandy.
When visiting the distillery, guests should keep in mind that following Montanan law, the sampling room is limited to serving only two ounces per person per night. As a result, the Gulch Distillery is not a destination where guests should expect all-night service.
Instead, Gulch Distillery is a great place to drop by to start your night out on the town or simply grab an evening nightcap after a busy day.
And, if you like what you taste, be sure to grab up to two permitted bottles of your favorite spirit to enjoy at home.
What to try
What you will want to try from Gulch Distillery’s sampling room will depend on your alcohol preferences.
While whisky lovers may want to zone in on sampling the flying anvil single malt, the distillery offers plenty of flavors to cater to all types of liqueur preferences.
Founded in 1998, Black Foot River Brewing Co contributes to Helena’s local craft beer culture with 13 diverse beers, all available on draft at the company’s taproom.
With no kitchen on-site, Black Foot River Brewing Co is limited by the same local laws as Gulch Distillery and is only permitted to serve up to 48 ounces per person per day.
So, while you may not be spending the whole night in the taproom, it does serve as a good starting spot for sampling some of the finer tastes of the town’s nightlife.
Check out the brewery’s event schedule for any upcoming live music performances and other specialty shows.
What to try
With 13 great flavors on tap, Black Foot Brewing Co has a brew for everyone. Popular crowd favorites include the Blackfoot Holter Pale Ale and the Blackfoot Cream Ale.