The Bozeman Taproom
Maggie Hudlow | Sunday Mar. 1st, 2020
Head to The Bozeman Taproom for some beers after a long day of ridge laps or stripping streamers on the Madison and stay for the food. The hot wings are fried until crunchy on the outside and tender enough to fall right off the bone, and the smoky, house-made buffalo sauce pairs perfectly with a crisp pilsner. Flautas pretty much melt in your mouth with flaky tortillas wrapped around a fluffy mashed potato, chicken, and cheese filling, and are served with homemade salsa and sour cream. The menu is full of locally sourced ingredients and the dishes have clever names, feeding off the playfulness of the menu itself. Take the “Wagging Tail” for example; this Wagyu beef hot dog is no average hot dog, and filled with bacon, cheese, and slaw—it’s likely to make your tail wag. I had the chance to meet up with general manager John Slye for an interview and to eat some of the great pub fare the Taproom has to offer.
Maggie Hudlow: How was the Bozeman Taproom conceptualized?
John Slye: Well, there are three owners: Eric “Bomber” Cade, Jim Tarpey, and Erin Gallinger who put the Taproom together. Bomber, a rugby player and avid skier, was looking to make a “one-stop shop” with the right environment, beer selection, and food, and so the Taproom came into existence.
MH: What makes The Bozeman Taproom unique in the Bozeman food scene?
JS: I think we’re missing a lot of pub-style restaurants in Bozeman, so the Taproom is a great place to stop by after a day of skiing, hiking, or playing around outside, and you don’t have to take all your gear off to come in. Most of the 4:30 crowd this time of year is in ski and snowboard gear, sometimes even with their boots on. And in addition to having over 40 tap handles, we also have a full liquor license, so we’re appealing to a variety of guests. Additionally, much of the menu is locally sourced like beef and pork from Belgrade and local produce when available. The menu will also be updated every three months with new, seasonal items.
MH: What do you want people to experience when they walk through your doors?
JS: A relaxing spot to hang out with friends. The rooftop patio has a couple of fireplaces and is a great place to chill out with a beverage and some food in warmer months. Music nights also offer a great setting for people to meet up and enjoy food, drinks, and a live band. The music starts around 9:30 and the kitchen is open until 10:00, with the Taproom usually staying open until around 12:00.
MH: What item do your regulars keep coming back for?
JS: Beer! And wings! People love the selection of beers (PSA: it’s not just IPAs). But more and more, people are coming back for the food, the wings and burgers especially.
MH: What do you enjoy most about being part of the Bozeman community?
JS: Bozeman is such an athletic, outgoing, fun place. Having this kind of an outdoor-friendly business helps to build the community in that manner. We’re here at the base of ski mountains, biking and fishing accesses, and if you don’t partake in those activities maybe you just like walking around in the woods or something; it’s a really just a fun, lively community to be a part of. We try to push the outdoor recreation aspect here — always playing things like ski, snowmobile, and mountain biking movies on the TVs, sometimes even mixing it up with some surfing (but don’t worry die-hard sports fans, a game can always be turned on, per request).
MH: Do you have anything upcoming that you want readers to know about?
JS: Yes! Every Saturday night we have bands playing starting at 9:30, and Wednesday we usually have single acoustic-type musicians. Also, Monday night is Trivia night, starting at 7:00.
MH: You were recently voted Bozeman’s Choice for #1 Beer Selection. What does being voted Bozeman’s Choice mean to you?
JS: We’re really excited and honored to be voted #1 for our beer selection. We work hard to source the best beers we can. We keep a local focus while reaching out for the variety and keep it ever-changing. We hope to see the restaurant side of things making a few more appearances on Bozeman’s Choice in the future.
The new menu created by Chef John offers something for everyone. He describes the food as fun, different, and playful, which plays into the Taproom’s ethos statement “don’t hate fun.” My recommendation for when you go to the Taproom is this: Take a moment when you first get there to appreciate everything that is available on tap, because the list can be a bit daunting. But, maybe try something new; you might find something you really like (and don’t forget about craft cocktails, wine, and non-alcoholic options!). Now, once you have a tasty beverage in front of you, spend some time with the menu. The details matter. Order an app for the table that catches your eye. Try the “Full Moon Burger” with a sweet ‘n’ spicy cayenne-candied orange slice, thick slices of bacon, blue cheese, and stone-ground mustard. Get the hot chicken in waffle cone because it’s something different. This menu was created to push pub fare in a new direction, so allow it to push you in a new direction as well. You might just like the results. You are probably going to want to order the dessert chips as well; it’s a pile of “nachos” but you get chocolate ancho sauce instead of nacho cheese and the salsa is made from strawberries. Don’t hate fun, eat fun instead.