Puzzles and pints: These Missoula gamers know how to slake their thirst

Puzzled Pint volunteer Chris Downie, center, helps Bob Cowan and Lorna McIntyre with a Game of Thrones-themed puzzle at Great Burn Brewing last week. Puzzled Pint meets once a month at a different local bar or brewery and is free to attend. (Katy Spence/Missoula Current)

There aren’t many groups in Missoula that require you to solve a puzzle to find the time and location of the next monthly meeting, but that’s what Puzzled Pint is all about.

An international organization, Puzzled Pint holds free monthly meetings across the U.S., Europe, Canada, Africa and New Zealand. Attendees can participate in teams or as individuals, working to solve a packet of themed puzzles for fun as they drink beer at a local bar or brewery.

Chris Downie has been running Missoula’s monthly Puzzled Pint meeting for a year and a half. He said that while the puzzles can be challenging, attendees do not need to have specialized knowledge to solve them.

“These puzzles are made to be approachable,” Downie said. “You don’t need to know the periodic table of the elements. So it makes people from all different skill levels and backgrounds feel clever. And that is the point of puzzles, is to feel clever at the end.”

However, these are more than your average Sudokus and crosswords. Often, Puzzled Pint puzzles require attendees to crack a code, find a pattern or solve a logic problem.

Puzzled Pint attendee Dan Fouts works through a puzzle which requires the solver to navigate a grid with specific instructions and obstacles. (Katy Spence/Missoula Current)

Above all, Downie said, the goal is for participants to have fun. Attendees are encouraged to ask for hints if they ever feel stuck.

Downie said finding partner venues has been easy in Missoula. Most places he’s approached have readily agreed to host the open meetings.

“We have plenty of bars and breweries out here,” he said. “So the ‘pint’ part is already set.”

July’s location puzzle took interested puzzlers to Great Burn Brewing, where they received a packet of Game of Thrones-themed word and logic puzzles. Great Burn Brewing taproom manager Colin Millar said Puzzled Pint is unique because it pulls in customers who might not otherwise visit the brewery. He added that open events like this are a great way to interact with customers on a more personal level and learn what they’re interested in.

“It’s not just about the beer,” Millar said. “It gives us an opportunity to be part of their lives.”

Attending puzzler Dan Fouts said he particularly enjoyed this month’s theme, which centered around George R.R. Martin’s popular book, and now television series. Fouts has been a faithful Puzzled Pint attendee since last August.

He said he likes how Puzzled Pint appeals to a different, sometimes overlooked, community within Missoula.

“Most of the Missoula community is about outdoors,” Fouts said “This is a part. You can meet people who are doing something that engages the mind.”

Fouts likes logic puzzles, but he said sometimes figuring out what kind of puzzle he’s solving is a compelling challenge in and of itself.

While Puzzled Pint is not a competitive event, participants can compare their solve time with other teams around the world on puzzledpint.com.

Puzzled Pint meetings occur on the second Tuesday of each month at a different local brewery, though Downie added that he is interested in approaching distilleries about hosting future meetings. Location puzzles are posted on puzzlepint.com on the Thursday before the meeting.

Hints and the solution are provided before the meeting starts. Solutions for each month’s puzzles are posted before the next monthly meeting.

You can find information about the organization online at puzzledpint.com, or find information about the local chapter, Puzzled Pint Missoula, on Facebook.

Puzzled Pint volunteer Chris Downie is available to hand out puzzle packets and hints at July’s meeting in Great Burn Brewing. Puzzled Pint meets once a month at a different local bar or brewery and is free to attend. (Katy Spence/Missoula Current)