Hang around the sidewalk in front of Doc’Z Pub on a summer evening, and you will likely spot the following parked out front: pickups; motorcycles; bicycles; travel trailers; dogs, and even the odd tricycle.
Take a seat at the bar or at one of its numerous tables, and you’ll likely be welcomed into conversation with Wolf Point business owners, farmers and ranchers, oil workers, cross-country cyclists, the occasional tourist on a stopover with the Amtrak Empire Builder, and kids of all ages—bouncing on laps, sitting in high chairs, or navigating tricycles between table legs.
But, no matter what time of year you visit, you’re guaranteed to see at least one of the Zilkoski clan buzzing around the establishment, bringing a round of homemade root beers and sandwiches to a table, tapping one of their seven custom microbrews or seasonal beers, and welcoming everyone who crosses the Doc’Z threshold as if inviting an old friend into their living room.
“There’s a similarity between being a doctor and running a pub. You create these relationships,” said Dr. Mark Zilkoski, who in November 2009 opened the establishment (simply known as “Doc’s” by locals) along with his wife Myrle and their close friend and business partner Mark Sansaver. Sansavar, an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine tribe, is a key component to Doc’Z’s success. He grew up in Wolf Point and spent years traveling the West Coast and Alaska as a sales manager before moving home. Sansavar’s involvement in Doc’Z, he says, evolved out of a “shared love for the microbrew.” The three previously co-founded Missouri Breaks Brewing, which crafts each of the microbrews served at Doc’Z.
Starting a microbrew was a surprising venture for a family practitioner who says he used to drink beer only at Super Bowl parties and admits, “I didn’t like beer.”
That sentiment changed during a family ski trip to western Montana, when Mark Zilkoski tried his first sip of a small batch Alaskan Amber.
“You couldn’t get good beer in Wolf Point at the time,” recalls Zilkoski, who has a reputation for diving headlong into new hobbies.
He started making beer at home, which he and his wife invited their friends and neighbors over to taste. The tasting parties grew in popularity, and the Zilkoskis began offering their product to the public.
Several of the couple’s nine children, who range in age from 40 to 15, help out in the pub. Two of those children, Marianne and Katie, manage the pub’s day-to-day operations and craft brewing process.
And though well known for its Big Beaver Belchin’ Ale, Rattlesnake IPA and Sand Pike Stout, the kid-friendly Doc’Z also serves breakfast, lunch, desserts, and an assortment of non-alcoholic drinks—from espresso, hot chocolate, smoothies and lemonade—to the popular homemade root beer made from Mark Zilkoski’s own recipe.
“It’s a pub, not a bar,” said Mark, adding that Doc’Z would not have opened without the help and support of many in town. “It’s a family business, but it takes a community.”
“(Local) people come in that I never would have met or bumped into otherwise,” added Myrle Zilkoski, describing one of her favorite aspects of owning a community gathering place.
Doc’Z has also enabled the Zilkoskis to create community well beyond Wolf Point.
“We get to meet people from all these different walks of life,” said Myrle, noting that in summer, cyclists traveling cross-country on Montana’s Hi-Line (Hwy 2) often find their way to the microbrewery.
Though each admits running a pub is hard work, the outgoing couple and their offspring have found a perfect niche for themselves, where they seem capable of lifting the spirits of just about anyone who crosses their paths.
“We get a lot of people that wouldn’t normally go to a bar that come here. There’s no other place in Wolf Point like it,” said Mark.
Their pub, Myrle reflected, is ultimately a place where people come to “connect to other human beings in a real way.”
“It’s awesome,” said Myrle, adding, “I know it’s not just about the beer.”
Doc’Z Pub & Missouri Breaks Brewing
326 Main Street
Wolf Point, MT 59201
Generally open Monday – Saturday until 8:00pm
Hours are subject to change, they suggest calling ahead.
Thank you to the Montana Quarterly, where the original version of this article appeared. (Fall 2013 issue. Volume 9, No. 3)