PJ Eldridge plans to open a rather unique business in Billings, one that will cater to home brewers of beer and those who think they would like to brew their own beer, but aren’t too sure how or where to begin.
To open on June 8, and to be called Brewhalla, the new business will be located at 1211 24th Street West, Ste. 1, in the former location of Gainan’s and a former bookstore, south of Grand Avenue. The business will not only sell supplies, ingredients and equipment to home brewers, but will have available space and equipment and ingredients, on premises, as well as support and instructions for those who want to try brewing beer. A lot of people have thought they might like to brew their own beer, explains Eldridge, but they either don’t have the space or don’t want to have to invest in all the equipment just to try it out.
Eldridge has been brewing beer for 12 years, and with a garage full of equipment and supplies, he knows of what he speaks. The idea for a brew on-premises facility is not new, but it is new to Montana — Brewhalla will be the first on-premises brewery in the state. There’s 45 or 50 such businesses across the country, and as he explored the potential for the business, Eldridge traveled to California and to New Jersey to visit similar facilities and learn how it’s done.
Employing his wordsmithing skills, Eldridge came up with the name Brewhalla for his business by drawing upon his Norwegian/ Swedish and Dane ancestry. Having something of a Viking descent, Eldridge tweaked the Viking word “Valhalla”, which means a “warriors heaven.”
Either individually or as a group patrons may come and make their own beer, following their own recipe or adopting someone else’s or experimenting and adjusting a recipe to learn how varying quantities of hops, yeast or other ingredients will impact flavor.
Brewing beer is like cooking and eating food, said Eldridge, “there is a community aspect to it and relationships that goes into it. Making beer is more fun doing it with other people.”
To be part of that fun, the memories and building of traditions is much of what Eldridge looks forward to being involved with. “At the end of the day that is what I am really passionate about,” he said, to be able to make a difference and help people build relationships. “If I can help people build community and share themselves with other people, what could be better than that?”
Eldridge foresees beer-making as a possible team building, or a thank you to employees for a business, or for a bachelor or bachelorette party in which they can make their own beer for a wedding celebration. There are all kinds of gatherings and celebrations – birthdays, family reunions, etc. which could involve people brewing their own beer. With six brewing stations, which have room for about 4 people at each station, Brewhalla can accommodate groups of about 24 individuals, they can bring their own food and spend “a couple hours doing something fun.”
Each brew stations can brew 5, 10, or 15 gallon batches. Every 5 gallons brewed will produce approximately two cases of finished beer.
After making an appointment and selecting a beer recipe, Brewhalla will have all the equipment ready and ingredients available upon the patron’s arrival. Knowledgeable and experienced staff will be available to offer direction or answer questions – and to clean up!
“We can make six different season beers in one night,” said Eldridge. “Each person will get about a case and a half sampler pack. Brewing your own beer is a two visit process – first to brew and the second to bottle.
After brewing, Brewhalla take care of the brew in their temperature controlled fermentation room along with a log that will allows patrons to see the progress.
No beer can be offered or labeled for sale. The only consumption of beer allowed on premises is just enough to ensure quality control.
Eldridge has always thought he’d like to own his own business one day. Having been very involved with the management of businesses, Eldridge said there’s really only one aspect of it that has him a little nervous, and that is leaving behind “pretty solid employment.” But, that only makes him a little anxious, because he believes there isn’t much that can’t be overcome by hard work, and “I’m not afraid of hard work,” he said.
Eldridge may be recognized by many as the managing partner the last 12 years of Texas Roadhouse. He is a native Montana, having been born in Havre, and having lived in many communities throughout the state. When asked where home is, said Eldridge, he simply claims “Montana.” And, having lived in several other states throughout his restauranteur career, Eldridge is very glad to have been able to return to Montana. There’s no place like Montana for the outdoor life – hunting and hiking – that he loves.
Eldridge began managing a restaurant for MacKenzie River Pizza at the age of 19. He worked with the company in Great Falls and Boise. Twenty years ago he moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming and began working for Texas, Roadhouse.
Eldridge is married and has four children.
Check Brewhalla out on their website brewhallmt.com, or on facebook, Instagram, twitter or You Tube.
The phone number will be 406 534-2882.