Vol. 4 | Fall 2019

F I R E TOWE R CO F F E E HO U S E 22 N Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT

There’s a spot downtown on Helena’s Last Chance Gulch—a street that boasts historical architecture, charming mom and pop shops and favorite local hangouts—that sings to its own tune. A place where you can get a bottomless cup of hot coffee and a lesson in the history of rock and roll, all in one fell swoop. Nestled between cafés, pottery studios, boutiques and bookstores sits Fire Tower Coffee House, named after Helena’s iconic landmark, the Guardian of the Gulch, built in 1876. Fire Tower has been serving strong, hot, delicious coffee to customers for a solid 21 years. Within the uniquely decorated, story-filled walls lives the man behind the curtain, owner Nord Johnson, who’s known for his wacky sense of style, love of people and undisputable passion for rock and roll music. He’s rarely worn a matching pair of shoes during his seven years as owner of Fire Tower Coffee. It’s all part of his charm. Ever since Nord took over, the sourcing and roasting of Fire Tower’s coffee has become very intentional. “All the coffee we roast is organic and fair-trade. It’s the best coffee you can buy. I buy my green beans as whole beans, no fragments. So what you’re drinking here is as good as you can get,” Nord says. Inside the coffee roasting room, ACDC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” blares through the speakers as a dedicated fellow aptly named “Buzz” works his magic. Buzz has been been roasting small batches of beans for the past six years. Every batch is meticulously logged and tracked because every time new beans are used, the moisture content will be different, altering roasting times and tactics. Nord watches, listens and smells the beans, like a vinter, only with coffee. His job is to assure quality and consistency. He wants every cup of coffee to be just as fresh and robust as the last. The machine itself is a giant, black, 35 year old German Probat manual roaster. It’s the largest roaster in Helena. “The roaster is the golden goose,” Nord says. “That machine is what runs and

Behind T H E C U R TA I N

PHOTOS by SHANNON REED WRITING by STACY MESSICK

Pictured: Nord Johnson, Owner

www.thelocal-helena.com

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