The Great Northern Brewery’s Beer Barter is returning to Whitefish Winter Carnival Saturday.
The event asks participants to answer the question, “What would you do or trade for a year’s worth of beer?” and occurs in downtown Whitefish just after the carnival parade wraps up.
The question is meant to be as open-ended as it sounds.
Participants’ answers have taken a variety of forms in the past, Great Northern managing partner Marcus Duffey says, with people performing various acts like aerial silk dancing, fire dancing or even eating worms on stage. Participants have also bartered with items they own, such as Volkswagen buses or the yak that was brought downtown for trade.
“I think it’s pretty consistent with the quirkiness of Winter Carnival and being an authentic mountain ski town. We look for ways to entertain ourselves in the winter, that was the inspiration behind Winter Carnival, so why not tack on to that quirkiness with an obscure question like ‘What would you do or trade for a year’s supply of beer?’” Duffey said. “Whitefish and the Flathead Valley as a whole is home to a lot of unique people with unique backgrounds and talents and interests, and to see all those come out and be celebrated in one spot is pretty cool.”
Participants in the barter are judged by a panel consisting of the carnival parade Grand Marshal Jack Gladstone, Becky Rygg, Alicia Blake, Ed Doctor and Duffey.
Entries are judged on various criteria like creativity, physical or perceived value, engagement and generosity, as Duffey notes in the past the beer has been donated to others.
Along with the main judges, another factor comes into play.
“The sixth judge is the crowd. The crowd’s reaction and involvement is critical,” Duffey says.
The winner gets 52 cases of beer — 1,248 beers total — of one of the brewery’s four flagship beers, Going-to-the-Sun IPA, Wild Huckleberry Lager, Big Mountain Tea Pale Ale and Good Med Montana Red Ale. If one were to match the quantity in individual six-packs throughout a year, that would come out to 208 six-packs and with a value of roughly $1,900.
The barter last ran in 2014 before the city of Whitefish denied the brewery an event permit due to concerns over insurance costs and possible open containers and over-consumption by patrons.
Prior to that the event was a mainstay of Carnival from 2011 to 2014, and the first iteration started all the way back in 2000.
This year, however, the details have been ironed out and the barter is ready, Duffey says.
“A lot of misunderstandings have been ironed out and the city is a great partner of ours,” Duffey said. “We’re back on good terms. We’re a steward of the community and we take our responsibility to sell alcohol very seriously, so we’re going to do this responsibly and have a lot of fun at the same time.”
While the performance aspect of the barter may turn some community members off, Duffey says the end might just justify the means in this case.
“I would encourage anybody that’s on the fence and thinking about it to do it,” he said. “I know people don’t like getting up on stage in front of people, but it is a lot of beer. There’s no fine print in the deal, it’s 52 cases.”
Duffey said he’s looking forward to another fun barter this year, and so far he’s heard a lot of community members who are excited to see the event return.
“We’re the brewery in downtown Whitefish, and it’s our obligation to be a reveler of good times,” Duffey said. “For us, it’s a great promotion for the brewery but it’s a great thing for the community too. It’s quirky, kind of like most things in Whitefish.”
“The true colors of the community, they’re on display for sure,” he added.
For more information, visit, http://www.greatnorthernbrewing.com/.