This new event will advance Ales for Trails as a one-of-a-kind Montana beer festival

This year’s Ales for trails will see a new twist as Billings TrailNet introduces a brewery competition. Brewers will be invited to enter their beers in any of three categories: Amber Ale, American Style IPA, and wheat.

The competition will be judged by certified beer-tasting judges awarding gold, silver and bronze status to three beers in each category. Ales for Trails guests will also have a chance to judge the best brewery with the best beer with a one-vote ticket provided to each guest as they enter the gates.

Brewers have been awarded the guests’ choice Golden Pedal Award, a long-standing tradition at Ales for Trails, since the event started in 2001.

The new professional beer judging competition will make Ales for Trails one of three judged events in the state of Montana, and the only beer festival with judging.

Russ Palmer has a long history of volunteering at Ales for Trails and as a beer enthusiast, came up with the idea of the beer judging event. “Brewers can go to a brew fest every weekend in Montana,” he reasons. “With so many [festivals] to choose from, we want to give the brewers something to really look forward to every year and choose Ales for Trails,” he explains.

The idea has taken hold with the local brewers, too. “Having a legitimate, sanctioned competition based on technical merit will be great,” says Mike Ulrich, owner of Carter’s Brewing.

Shea and Jill Dawson, owners of Thirsty Street Brewing, agree. “Bringing everyone from a region is important because you see other beers win and you talk to others about their technique,” says Jill.

Shea continues, “it’s good for us whenever we have an opportunity to get feedback. It adds legitimacy; the crowd sees it and gets excited; it just adds another great dimension to the festival and for the crowd,” he says.

The brewers’ competition will take place at Zoo Montana at 4:00 pm. Volunteers will deliver the unmarked beer to the brew lead, Russ Palmer.  He will be delivering the beers to the judges behind closed doors. Winners will be announced right before the live music begins at 6:30 pm. Guests will be able to taste the winning beers at the evening’s award-winning breweries.

Tickets to Ales for Trails are on sale online now through Sept. 8, 2022, at and will be available for purchase for an early bird discount at The Base Camp, The Spoke Shop, Yellowstone Fitness, or at the gate the evening of the event for full price.

No one under the age of 21 will be allowed through the gate, and Billings TrailNet urges its guests to drink responsibly at the event.



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