The Dram Shop


By in Behind the Scenes 0

Taproom Dog

When I first started in the brewing industry better than a decade ago, I was hired at Big Sky Brewing Company to pour beers in their taproom. To this day I’m still not sure why they hired me. I was an out of work touring musician and had no experience at a brewery, in retail, or as a server. But, I did have a dog.

Her name was Kiska. She was as docile a Golden Retriever as you will ever meet. I mean, she was very sensitive. But, she loved people, and that made my new gig at the brewery a great fit for her. At the time, we lived in a tiny apartment on 5th Street in Missoula, about a mile and a half from the old Big Sky taproom on Hickory Street. Every morning we would walk along the river trail down to work, and Kiska would sit out in front of the brewery all day long. Every person who happened by was greeted with her same rabid enthusiasm, and it’s safe to say she put a smile on the faces of most folks. Now that I think about it, Big Sky may have hired me because of my dog.


Kiska by the Clark Fork River as a pup.

Fast forward a decade or more and a few things have changed. First off, Kiska unfortunately is no longer with us, and as of this last year, I’m no longer at Big Sky as I’m focusing my energies on starting up The Dram Shop. In the absence of Kiska, her friend and our other dog Leeroy now takes up the torch where she left off. Over the past months as I have sojourned each day to The Dram Shop on Front Street, Leeroy has faithfully joined me. We often walk home the couple of miles along Rattlesnake Creek and he loves to sniff around and wet his muzzle in the cold fresh water. He’s also taken up the tradition of keeping watch over the shop, and welcoming each person as they arrive.

A man's best friend.

A man’s best friend.

There’s something special about having a dog around. In some way it makes it all a bit more human, and I’m lucky to have him here by my side.

By in History 1

What is a Dram?

Why exactly did we name our place ‘The Dram Shop’ you may be wondering? Well, it’s sort of a long story, so here goes. First off, we love the term. Second, our business happens to be located in the Historic Missoula Mercantile Warehouse Building, and we like to think that sets us up within a unique historical perspective. And it turns out the history of the term ‘dram’ is rich.

Missoula Mercantile Warehouse. Photo taken between 1900-1910.

Missoula Mercantile Warehouse. Photos taken between 1900-1910.


Here’s what you need to know in order to wow your friends at the next BBQ:

From its origin, a ‘dram’ refers to a unit of measurement. Most folks who are familiar with the term relate it to its more recent Celtic application, referring to a ‘thimble full’, usually of liquor. But more accurately, the term was used in the modern apothecaries system until the mid-20th century, even here in the U.S., defined as exactly 1/8th of an ounce.

If you follow the term further into the past however, you find that it dates back to the term ‘drachma’ in ancient Greece. It was used for both a measure of weight and the name for a coin. Often times, it was used to mean a “handful’, as a unit of measurement. Now that’s an awesome measurement, and don’t think we haven’t thought about it!

But back to our story… Romans subsequently used the term ‘dram’ for a unit of measurement, and also as a noun for currency. This usage was followed by the Ottoman Empire, and then the Celts. It’s still used today in several Middle Eastern nations, as well as in Armenia as the name of its modern currency, the Drachma.

It’s a long history we know. But, we think it’s a great fit. We’re selling beverages that are enjoyed by many people from all over the world, and we’re selling them in specific units of measurement, right here on historic Front Street.

So the next time somebody asks you; “What’s a Dram anyway?” you’ll have something to talk about.

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By in Remodel 2

Bar Tops and Other Adventures

Hello there, and welcome to The Dram Shop Blog! It’s hard to believe it, but we have arrived, and our growler fill station is quickly becoming a reality. I’ll be posting here as often as I can to keep you all in the loop with what is going on around 229 East Front Street!

February 10, 2015

The last eight months of getting our business off of the ground have been extremely fun and educational, not to mention nerve wracking at times. We’ve tried to choose options for our place that are cool, fun, and don’t break the bank. Yes, they do exist, but have been particularly difficult to find. We’ve worked hard at it, and also enlisted John Geurts with McNelis Architects, who, lucky for me, also happens to be my brother-in-law. This is the story of finding an awesome material for our bar top and table.

John and I talked about everything from formica to granite to concrete as options, and were having trouble finding something that we thought was original, but would also be functional and attractive. That’s when John mentioned that he had recently been to a door manufacturer in Denver, and had seen some cool materials that they use to make their solid wood doors. It’s basically a laminate of thinly ripped boards, and they use it to build doors for it’s strength, and because it doesn’t move over time. The only problem he said, is that they then paint the doors and you don’t get to see the beautiful stripes of wood all laminated together. We both thought it was a material worth pursuing. Turns out, it’s virtually the same material used in Structural LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beams. Not only are these far cheaper than a solid wood door, they are available at our local lumber yard!


Once we decided on this material, we purchased enough structural beams to rip into lengths and re-laminate into our bar top and tables. We then drove them up Evaro hill and dropped them off at Buckeye Hardwoods in Arlee. After a week or two, Bob at Buckeye called and said that they had been ripped, laminated, run through Buckeye’s enormous drum sander, and were ready to pick up. I knew this was going to be a somewhat important event, so I tried to plan accordingly.

First of all, I knew that our Honda mini-van would not suffice to haul nearly a half ton of finished lumber from Arlee all the way back to Missoula. I needed a truck, and I knew just the one. My friend Will has an old, and well loved Ford F-150 named Bubba. Now Bubba may have a few minor dents and scratches on him, and he may be missing a window crank handle or two, but he is always up for an adventure.

Next I needed a co-pilot. Now I can think of lots of people who are great navigators with a map in their hand, or maybe have the mechanical acumen to fix a broken down Bubba, but I can’t think of anybody who offers the same steely resolve and emotional support as our 10-year-old, 100-pound labrador Leeroy. Not only does he have the experience necessary for such a mission, he has the get up and go. OK, well maybe he needs a bit of a hand getting into the back of the truck these days, but he is definitely not lacking in the enthusiasm department.


So Leeroy and I gassed up Bubba and headed north to Arlee. We had no trouble checking to make sure we had everything we came for, and loading the lumber in the back of the truck. Turns out Leeroy is very handy with a forklift.

We were nearly tied down and back on the road when we found ourselves chatting up Buckeye Bob. And it’s true that we may or may not have spent close to an hour listening to Bob’s harrowing tale of being thrown from and subsequently pinned down for hours by his trusty horse while hunting in the Beartooth Mountains.  Turns out he and the horse were both lucky to come away from the experience with only a few broken ribs and one heck of a story.

By the time we got back to Missoula with our bar and table tops, Leeroy, Bubba and I had nearly planned our next adventure into the wilderness. Or maybe we just relaxed over a couple of Milk Bones and took in the scenery. And from there on out there was nothing left to do but put the finishing touches on them with the orbital sander, and send them off to St. Ignatius for the final clear coat finish.


A lot of things happened that day, true or not, but Leeroy says he’s keeping his snout zipped. And by the way, so am I…