Caras Park Construction

Workers plant trees in Caras Park on Tuesday as renovations to the area near completion.

It’s been a long three years without the state’s oldest and largest beer festival in Missoula, but the annual Garden City Brewfest is finally back on Saturday, May 7 to welcome a crowd to the newly renovated Caras Park downtown.

The event will feature over 70 beers, ciders, hard seltzers and wines. It will take place from noon-8 p.m. and will feature local food trucks and live music from three Missoula-based bands: Tom Catmull’s Last Resort, Mudslide Charley and Joan Zen.

“Often imitated but never replicated, Garden City Brewfest is the oldest running Brewfest in Montana,” said Josh Eder, the Missoula Downtown Association’s board president. “That’s not a shock considering the number of local craft breweries nestled in the heart of Missoula.”

The first celebration was held in 1992 and the event was gifted to the Missoula Downtown Association in 2003. Since then, it’s served as the nonprofit organization’s largest fundraiser for projects and programs, including improvements to the downtown area.

Admission is free for all, but those interested in sampling adult beverages can purchase a seven-ounce glass, wristband and four tokens for $20. Additional tokens are two for $3. The food trucks at the site will include Big Dipper, Clove Cart Pizza, River City Eats and Sa Wad Dee. Missoula Sentinel Kiwanis will also be serving brats and chips.

Eder said the event wouldn’t happen without donations from lots of local businesses.

“The Missoula Downtown Association prides itself on strategizing and collaborating with local businesses,” Eder said. "Garden City Brewfest is the perfect example of local businesses and the Missoula Downtown Association pooling their resources to provide a great schedule of entertainment for our community."

Saturday will also mark the first time a major event will be held in the renovated Caras Park following an 8-month construction project. The park now features a new flat lawn that has replaced the old hill. There’s also new amphitheater seating near the bandshell. However, both the lawn and the seating have to remain inaccessible until mid-June while the new grass takes hold.

The project to renovate Caras Park is the first of many updates planned in the North Riverside Parks and Trails Plan for the river corridor from Russell Street east to Missoula College. Future plans include a new space for play under Beartracks Bridge and river access upgrades near Brennan’s Wave that will include better seating for spectators and ADA access to the waterfront.

Saturday’s Brewfest also coincides with opening day of the Saturday farmers markets in downtown Missoula. Visitors to the events are encouraged to bike, walk or utilize the free Mountain Line bus system. For more information visit missouladowntown.com.

“It’s a great way to get out and meet new people in our community on a beautiful spring day,” Eder said. “As a man who lucked out and met his wife at Garden City Brewfest 12 years ago, this is an event that is very near and dear to my heart.”

The last Garden City Brewfest was held in 2019 because the pandemic canceled the event the last two summers. Saturday's weather looks like a typical spring Montana day with a high in the 50s and a chance of sprinkles. All visitors who plan to drink should secure a safe ride home or walk, according to a press release from the Missoula Downtown Foundation.

Beer at the festival will be judged by Missoula’s local brewing club, the Zoo City Zymurgists, who sample each beer for a variety of awards that will be presented around 4:30 p.m.