Grand Brewing in Victor: Grand Teton Brewing, home of the Growlers, just keeps on kickin’ ass

By on October 25, 2017

Like it or not, most pint glasses aren’t what they advertise. But at Grand Teton Brewing in Victor, Idaho, they believe in true pints.

“A true pint holds 20 ounces of beer,” Chris Furbacher, marketing director of Grand Teton Brewing, said. “We serve full pints.”

The bartender, positioned behind the counter in the brewpub, agreed. Turns out there’s quite a bit to learn about beer, or the vessels in which beer is delivered  — and one can do just that by taking a quick trip over the Teton Pass and through the doors of Grand Teton Brewing, Wyoming’s first microbrewery and brewpub.

Chris’ parents, Steve and Ellen Furbacher, have been the owners of Grand Teton Brewing for the last 8 years or so. The Houston natives spent quite a bit of time over the years in the Jackson area, bringing their young son, Chris, along.

They purchased Grand Teton Brewing in April 2009 from Charlie Otto, who started the brewery in 1988 with his brother Ernie. The couple had no experience in the brewing business, but they loved the area, and they loved the business. Turns out that’s all you really need.

As with the Furbacher’s choice to purchase the brewery, the history of Grand Teton Brewing is nothing if not interesting. Billed as Wyoming’s first brewpub, the Otto brothers first opened the brewery in Wilson, Wyoming, right on the other side of the Pass.

The brewery was christened with the name Otto Brothers’ Brewing Company, and was the first modern “microbrewery” in the state of Wyoming. The Otto brothers worked the local market and the local leadership, earning spots for their Teton Ale and Moose Juice stout in local bars, and lobbying for the right to run a brewpub in the Cowboy State — an option that wasn’t legally available when they opened the brewery.

In 1989, Charlie and Ernie won their fight, opening the first legal brewpub in Wyoming. They also managed to reintroduce the Growler — that beer jug that’s found a place in nearly every microbrew scene across the nation. In 1989, the brothers decided to rework the European lidded tin-pail known as a “growler,” reworking it into the modern, 64-ounce glass jug version we see today.

The Otto brothers ultimately decided to relocate their brewery over the Pass to Victor in 1998, thanks to the allure of locally-grown barley, Northwest hops and nearby Teton glacier water, all of which made for top-notch brewing. The name change happened only a couple of years later — Grand Teton Brewing just felt more regional than Otto Brothers, and was a nod to the area in which the unique beer is born.

The Otto brothers’ rightful place as pioneers of the Wyoming microwbrew scene is clear, and since the Furbachers have taken over, they’ve only managed to improve the brewery — adding a mix of new equipment, new beers and community support, and incorporating a unique way of brewing local beers.

“We’re brewing in these barrels,” Chris said, motioning to the wall of old whiskey and wine barrels that line a room in the brewery. “We managed a while back to get our hands on some Jack Daniels barrels, and those beers were really popular.”

These days, the barrels are coming from a more local source: Jackson Hole Winery is currently one of the main suppliers of their barrels, although there are others thrown in the mix.

The idea of barrel-aging beer is that the beer takes on some of the flavors in the wood leftover from their fermented cousins, creating a unique flavor and process that fits with a brewery focused on doing things just a little bit differently.

“Everything about our beer is local,” Chris said. “That’s pretty unique — we try to use grains from Idaho as much as possible, and we even feel we have the best water, straight off the mountain from snow, to use. We boil it and use it in the brewing process. What we make really is a local beer.”

And it’s a really popular local beer, too — one that has managed to outgrow its Wyoming/Idaho roots. Production has grown from 4,900 barrels to 10,000 barrels under the new ownership, and Grand Teton Brewing’s beer is distributed all over the map, from Montana to Utah and beyond. The most fervent fans are, of course, locals, who pour in to try out the brewery’s staples like 208, a session ale, or their seasonal beers, a mix of sours, fruit beers, blends, barrel-aged and first-time styles.

“We see a pretty big crowd after people come off the mountain,” Chris said, although the brewpub sees a decent crowd most days. They’re open seven days a week for a reason.

While there are certainly slower seasons, as there is for all of Teton County’s businesses, things really pick up when the snowboarders and skiers pour into town. They like to hang out and have a beer or two in the shadow of the Tetons, Chris said, which Grand Teton Brewing’s front porch and yard are perfect for.

But the atmosphere surrounding Grand Teton Brewing’s pub is right for anyone, really — whether you’re a snowphile, a Teton Pass-phobe, a Driggs resident or just one of the lucky ones to live right near this little local beer haven. PJH

Grand Teton Brewing is located at 430 Old Jackson Highway in Victor. They offer daily tours of the brewery, and the brewpub hours are seasonal, so make sure to check before you head out. They are currently open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

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