Photography: Angry Hank's Microbrewery/Facebook

Billings, “Montana’s Trailhead,” has its own trail — one dotted with craft beer.

They call Billings “Montana’s Trailhead,” a fitting moniker for the jumping-off point to several day-trip destinations for history buffs and outdoors lovers eager to put a few miles on their hiking boots. It’s also close to the Little Bighorn Battle National Monument, Pompeys Pillar National Monument, and the Beartooth Highway.

But there’s a trail within the city that beer and spirits aficionados will want to explore — no canteen needed. For the Walkable Brewery District in the city’s historic district, all you’ll require is a map (available online), your billfold, and a healthy liver to sample an array of local beer and, as an added bonus, locally crafted spirits and a Smithsonian Institution-affiliated history museum.

The 1.5-mile self-guided walking tour includes six breweries, two distilleries, and the Western Heritage Center, a 1901-built former library that now houses artifacts that tell the history of the Yellowstone River Valley. First up are Spirit of Montana Distilling, where you can enjoy vodka and gin in the tasting room, and Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., where you can chase the hard stuff with a smooth Black Widow Oatmeal Stout or a hazy Huckle-weizen.

Less than five minutes’ walking distance is Überbrew, offering house-brewed beers and brewpub fare. Across the street is Trailhead Spirits, offering small-batch whiskey, gin, and vodka.

A block away you’ll find Carter’s Brewing, where you can enjoy a Golden Spike Pilsner if you need to take it relatively easy or a Ghost Train Imperial IPA if you don’t. After that, you can stop at the Western Heritage Center.

Angry Hank’s Microbrewery offers, along with seven other taps, Dog Slobber, a deep brown ale that looks just as appealing as its name doesn’t. Thirsty Street Brewing Co., which shares a parking lot with Angry Hank’s, specializes in creative brews like the chile pale ale Uno Mas and Oaked Up Hopped Sour.

Finally — if you have room for one last beer — stop at Montana Brewing Company for the appropriately named Custer’s Last Stout.

From the October 2017 Taste of the West issue.

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