Doc’Z: It’s a Pub, Not a Bar

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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.

Doc Z collage #1

Top: Locals enjoy the courtyard. Middle Row, L to R: The father of this Helena family is a Wolf Point native, so they make a trip home to Wolf Point every summer, and they always stop in at Doc Z’s. The mom (pictured in the foreground) sampled two “Z Pac”s. (R) Missouri Breaks sampler. Bottom Row, L to R: College kids in the “Inner Circle”, which is a room between the front of the bar and the courtyard. There are couches and a piano in here, too. (R) Doc Z’s/Missouri Breaks co-owner Mark Sansaver pictured at his table up front.

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.

Doc Z collage #2

Top: Detail of the brew board. First Row, L to R: Many of the Zilkoski children work behind the bar at Doc Z’s. Pictured is Zechariah Zilkoski serving up beers. (R) The pub seems like the Zilkoski family living room. These locals brought in Jenga to play while sipping brews. Second Row, L to R: Detail of the Big Beaver Belchin’ Ale. (R) Doc Z & Myrle’s daughter Katie Zilkoski is the brew master. She wears scrubs when brewing because it’s a hot process and they keep her cool. Bottom: Missouri Breaks Brewery. The pub gets pretty crowded up front.

“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.

Doc Z collage #3

Top: Missouri Breaks co-owner Mark Sansaver (wearing blue t-shirt at left) visits with locals at his regular table. Rebekah Zilkoski (standing in white shorts) brought her dog (“first child”) Tungsten Mark Zilkoski in to show off his many tricks; the dog is a regular feature here. Thirteen-year-old Aubrey, the Zilkowski’s youngest daughter is pictured standing in center wearing tanktop. Middle: Doc Z (Dr. Mark Zilkoski) & Myrle relax with beers out in the courtyard. Bottom: Locals sit with Missouri Breaks co-owner Mark Sansaver (wearing blue t-shirt) and sample four brews (The “Z Pac” is a sampler of four brews; these guys sipped 8).

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.

Doc Z collage #4

Top, L to R: Doc Z’s regular/local Paul Gysler, whose family owns Gysler Hardware, and his dog Breezy pull up and park in front of Doc Z’s. (R) Marianne Zilkoski-Rees (left, expecting her third child) works the bar with Amanda Sansaver (Mark Sansaver’s youngest daughter). Bottom, L to R: Missouri Breaks Brewery’s IPA. (R) Jeff Presser is “our Norm” (like Norm from cheers) say regulars to Doc Z’s. Jeff married Myrle’s sister Theresa. Pictured is Theresa (left) & Jeff.

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.

Doc Z collage #5

Top: Hops growing in the pub’s the courtyard. Doc also has them growing on 40-foot poles in his backyard. If you’re there when they pick in the fall…you can trade labor/picking for beer! Middle, L to R: Doc Z (Dr. Mark Zilkoski) out on the pub’s courtyard surrounded by hops. (R) Doc Z & Myrle’s daughter Katie Zilkoski is the brew master. She wears scrubs when brewing because it’s a hot process and they keep her cool. Here she is measuring hops. Bottom: If you bring Doc a growler from another pub not yet in his collection, he’ll display it and replace yours with a full Doc Z’s growler.

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
406-653-1467
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)

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