Re-posted from the Great Falls Tribune, December 15, 2015, by: Kristen Inbody
Miranda Hackman poses with her completed Montana Brewery Passport at CopperWild Brewing in Butte. (Photo: COURTESY PHOTO)
He started with a Kickstarter campaign, raising $5,500 with 105 backers by July 4, 2014. His pitch was that breweries are Montana’s melting pot, bringing together locals and tourists to “taste, talk, and unwind after a day on the trails, slopes, or water. Ranchers sit next to college students; Californians sit next to Montana business owners.”
In the back of his mind was the national parks passport he’d had.
“I hadn’t used it before, but in researching I found it works best when you’re creating a tangible product,” Newhouse said. “Simply, it was a way to pre-sell and to gauge interest, to tell the story and to be upfront about what it is.”
The project created excitement around the passport, and it was a way to fund it without charging breweries.
“I didn’t want it to be pay to play. This seemed like the best way to get 100 percent participation,” Newhouse said. “The stamps are at no charge to them, and they can sell the passports if they want but don’t have to. It’s never cost the breweries a penny to participate.”
Only one brewery doesn’t have a stamp, and that’s because it’s new and the stamp is still in production.
Newhouse said his guidebook to breweries educates people about the stories of each brewery but the passport helps people engage once they’ve arrived at the brewery.
“The book only has 38 breweries whereas we have 62 breweries now open in Montana,” he said. “The book is a little outdated, but I do low print runs with the passport so I keep it up to date.”
The passport also has space to write in new breweries.
Those who finish the passport get a prize, which is still being designed.
Seeing the passport in circulation – he’s sold about 10,000 – has been rewarding, Newhouse said.
He was at a spaghetti dinner in Dillon for a race when a guy sat next to him with a new passport he’d gotten for Father’s Day.
“He was there to get a stamp from Beaverhead Brewing Co.,” Newhouse said. “It was a real small-world moment.”
In Missoula’s Imagine Nation Brewing, the owner of a Helena brewery approached Newhouse.
“We hadn’t met, but he said, ‘Your passport, just love it,’” Newhouse said. “It was a fun moment to have the owner of a brewery give a complement like that.”
Hackman was at Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co., in Libby when she met a woman working on completing her passport by going to every brewery.
“I thought that it sounded like fun and a great way to see Montana. So, I bought one there and started my brewery tour. I would plan a road trip for just about every weekend,” she said. “It also helped that I work four ten-hour shifts so I get three-day weekends.”
Hackman said having the passport made keeping track of her visits and making plans easy.
“I would meet a lot of people at the breweries that would ask me about my passport; a lot of people haven’t heard of them. When I would talk to them about the purpose of the passport and the experiences that I have had, they wanted to buy one for themselves and start their own brewery tour,” she said. “I would also keep notes about each brewery in my passport, which made it easy for me to recommend places and good beer.”
Hackman’s motto is “No good beer is ever too far out of the way.”
That said, some places were far indeed. Her last roadtrip was 1,100 miles, taking in breweries in Havre, Glasgow, Wolf Point and Sidney. She made Butte’s CopperWild her last one since she’s from Butte and wanted the journey to come full circle there.
“With some of the other ‘remote’ breweries such as the ones in Wibaux and Eureka, I was in the general area so I made it a point to go to them,” she said. “I have also been going to the new breweries as they open.”
And her favorite?
“There are so many good breweries in Montana,” she said. “Several breweries came to mind. But, if I had to pick one, it would be the Black Eagle Brewery, outside of Great Falls in Black Eagle. Their beer was outstanding, great atmosphere and a very friendly staff.”
Reach Tribune Staff Writer Kristen Inbody at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @GFTrib_KInbody.
What: Montana Brewery Passport
Why: Track your progress visiting breweries around the state
Available: Breweries or online at montanabrewerypassport.com/