Brewers Celebrate New Law Raising the Production Limit
MISSOULA – Governor Steve Bullock was at Bayern Brewing today for a ceremonial signing of HB 541, the bill that raises the production limit for Montana breweries.
“Even more than taps and great beers, our breweries employ our fellow Montanans, buy products from our farmers, and help grow Main Street Montana,” said Governor Bullock. “This legislation is a good thing for the industry and for our economy, as well as for Montana craft beer lovers like myself.”
Bullock was joined by HB 541 co-sponsors Rep. Adam Hertz (R – Missoula) and Rep. Ellie Hill (D – Missoula), members of Montana’s craft brewing community and industry partners in Bayern’s Edelweiss Bistro to celebrate the bill being signed into law.
“Economic growth and innovation are unlimited when we allow free markets to thrive,” said Hertz, primary sponsor of HB 541. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this bi-partisan regulatory reform that will position Montana’s craft brewing industry to be a bigger player in the regional market and create hundreds of new jobs.”
Montana’s brewing industry has grown tremendously in recent years, doubling beer production between 2010 and 2017. According to a 2016 economic study conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, Montana’s craft brewing industry was responsible for $103.2 million in economic output, employed 702 people and created a total of 1,044 jobs in 2015.
Still, the economic potential could be much greater. Montana brewers have long seen the 10,000 barrel limit as an obstacle to growth that discourages Montana breweries from growing, punishes success and puts Montana breweries at a competitive disadvantage to breweries from other states.
“This bill removes a barrier that has hindered our growth and limited our ability to meet demand for our beer in Montana and beyond,” said Jürgen Knöller, owner of Bayern Brewing. “After waiting for this legislation for nearly two decades, we’re excited that this day has finally arrived.”
Bayern’s production grew steadily for 27 years, but plateaued around 9,900 barrels for the past three years. Under the old 10,000 barrel production limit, Bayern would actually lose money if they grew beyond the limit without making a significant leap in production. But Bayern, Montana’s oldest brewery and celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, has a lot to celebrate in 2017. Thanks to HB 541, this is the first year Bayern will be able to brew more than 10,000 barrels without being penalized with the loss of taproom sales.
Two other Missoula breweries will see direct benefits from HB 541. The new law will allow KettleHouse Brewing to have a taproom at the new Bonner brewery, their largest production facility and the site of the new KettleHouse Amphitheater. Big Sky Brewing has never been able to sell beer in their taproom, since their production already exceeded 10,000 barrels when the original bill passed in 1999, but that will all change when HB 541 takes effect.
“Montana is beer country and Missoula is the heart of beer country,” said Smith, co-sponsor of the legislation. “Rep. Hertz and I may come from different political parties but we both saw the need to do this for our community and the state as a whole. I’m pleased that Democrats and Republicans came together during the session to do what’s right for Montana craft brewers, barley farmers and craft beer lovers.”
HB 541 enjoyed strong bipartisan support in its journey to the governor’s desk. It passed the House on an 85-14 vote and the Senate on a 40-9 vote. The new law will take effect on October 1.