2013 was a very active year for the Montana Brewers, to say the least. We have experienced remarkable growth once again as several new breweries hit the scene and joined the association.
In January the Montana Brewers Association published our first ever Montana Brewers Economic Study. Developed by the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, this study identified that our industry is growing with double digit numbers, and now is a $50 million dollar industry impacting over 450 Montana jobs. We will be commissioning a new study to be completed in 2014.
The year began with a big boom when the Montana Tavern Association introduced a bill that would have decimated the brewing industry, attempting to limit on-premise sales to just 10% of brewery production. We were successful in killing that bill, only to find another introduced which sought to limit on-premise sales to 40% and hinder entry into the Montana brewery industry. With the help of craft beer lovers throughout the state, and some hard work by several legislators, we defeated this bill as the session came towards its close. A veritable sigh of relief was heard all across Montana when HB616 took its last breath. Though our Joint Resolution, HJR 18, to study these issues in the interim and develop real and lasting solutions received a 19 to 0 vote in the House Business Committee, it died on the House Floor in a 50 to 50 vote.
Following the 2013 Legislature were several months of thrilling activities working with new breweries (now 35) and Associate Members (now 63), as well as hosting four great events for craft beer lovers and brewers in Montana:
The 2013 Spring Brewers Festival in Billings on May 31 at the Billings Depot- At our first Spring Festival, 1,200 people joined 23 brewers with 76 beers to make this the largest collection of Montana brewed beer to date, along with great music and food.
The Cruise With Charlie on Flathead Lake on August 10 - 125 lucky people cruised the lake with Charlie Papazian, president of the national Brewers Association and author of the bible of home brewing "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing".
The 5th Annual Montana Brewers Fall Festival in Missoula on September 28 - 2,400 people joined us at Caras Park along the Clark Fork River and included 25 Montana brewers hosting 87 beers including 21 Festival Special Release Beers! With 87 beers, we hosted the largest ever collection of Montana made beer on display! Next year (mark your calendars -Oct 11, 2014) we hope to go over 100!
The 2nd Annual Montana Brewers Conference in Missoula on September 29 and 30- This 2-day technical conference was a big success for our industry where we assembled to strategize and discuss brewing techniques and policies. Over 110 brewers and staff attended with 21 sponsoring companies.
In the midst of this busy summer and fall we also coordinated a Montana Craft Brewers Industry Review at the Baucus Economic Summit in Butte in mid-September. This panel was moderated by Charlie Papazian (that's twice visiting Montana within a month), and included a panel of 3 breweries (Big Sky, Lewis and Clark, and Beaver Creek), Cardinal Distributing, and a Malteurop representative regarding the economic impact of the craft brewing industry in the state.
The Montana Brewers Association also engaged in its first ever strategic planning effort. This process identified key areas of focus for the association for 2014 and 2015 to support its members.
2014 looks to be another active year.
Here's a sneak preview:
We have called together industry partners in an effort to proactively use the legislative interim on brewery-related policy issues. This historic gathering of 15 representatives from Montana Brewers, Montana Taverns, Montana Distributors, Montana Gaming, and the state, are meeting in hopes of developing a bill to address brewery issues within the liquor control statutes. We have high hopes that this group, who has never assembled before, can assist us in making much needed improvements and provide insight throughout this process.
The Montana Brewers Association will once again commission an economic development study. This year's study will measure 2012 and 2013 growth and be available in the late spring/early summer.
We are intending to host 4 events once again this year so mark your calendars:
2nd Annual Spring Festival in Billings - Our second Spring Fest is coming and we are hoping to top last year's attendance and fun. We are still working on details but we are aiming for April or May at the Metra Park.
Helena's 150 Birthday Brew Fest - August 16, Centennial Park - Helena is 150 years old this year having struck gold in 1864. The city has asked us to host an event and we are excited to be working with them to make this one of the marquee events for the city for this coming summer.
6th Annual Montana Brewers Fall Festival - Oct. 11, Caras Park - Our third year in Missoula, the Montana brewers are coming back with their Festival Release Beers and hoping to have over 100 beers available to sample.
3rd Montana Brewers Conference - Oct. 12, and 13, Downtown Holiday Inn, Missoula - Our annual technical conference for brewers and staff to meet and engage one another on brewing techniques and policy.
The Montana Brewers Association wants to thank our passionate patrons throughout the state for their support in 2013. Please follow our progress at www.montanabrewers.org, and let us know any ideas for improvement.