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Flathead Lake Brewing Company working towards reopening after 'unforeseen disaster'

A suppression pipe burst sent out thousands of gallons of water
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Posted at 3:37 PM, Jan 27, 2023

BIGFORK - One of the Flathead’s most iconic breweries has been closed for nearly two months after a suppression pipe burst over the main kitchen.

The burst pipe caused extensive flooding destroying walls, flooring, celling and more at Bigfork’s Flathead Lake Brewing Company.

“And about 250, 300 gallons of water per minute was flowing out of it very quickly,” said Flathead Lake Brewing Pub House owner Sandy Schwartz.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2022, a suppression pipe burst over the main kitchen of the pub house as thousands of gallons of water covered every crevasse of the building.

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“Drywall was coming out, our kitchen literally where the pipe came apart it looked like a bomb went off, it was pretty bad,” added Schwartz.

Schwartz said she was awakened in the middle of the night by coworkers, she was speechless when she saw the damage.

“Reality of what was probably coming, a couple tears in all honesty, and then just this…speechless…of what had happened and where we had to go to get it back."

For the last two months, crews have been replacing flooring, kitchen walls and ceiling damage, doing everything they can to reopen.

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“We still have a lot of hurdles to get over before we get to the end of the finish line, so we’re not quite sure on an opening date unfortunately at this time, but we’re working hard every day to try to get there as fast as possible,” said Schwartz.

She said the damage to the building is covered by insurance and workers have been compensated during the closure.

“I worked really hard to make sure that my employees which we have about 40-45 were covered through all of this because I did not want to lose them because they’re family, and this was right around the holidays so luckily I’ve been able to give them a paid holiday until we’re back up and running,” added Schwartz.

The brewing equipment housed in a separate building from the brewpub was not damaged, so canning production has continued as usual. Schwartz said the easiest way to support the brewery is by buying a six-pack from a grocery store or a pint of draft beer from a local pub.

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“That is an amazing way to help us right now.”

She said the biggest blessing is that nobody was hurt or injured when the pipe burst.

“Things can get replaced but people can’t, and thank goodness this explosion, which it really looked like a bomb went off, happened in the middle of the night when we were closed down and not in the middle of service when somebody could have been underneath because we could be talking about a whole different situation, so luckily everybody is okay and that’s the most important thing.”