Montana Brewers Get Green Light for Growth

HB 541 Clears Final Hurdle on 94-6 Vote

HELENA – This morning, the Montana House concurred with Senate amendments on HB 541 with a vote of 94-6. The bill allows
Montana breweries to grow past 10,000 barrels of annual production without losing their taproom by raising the production cap to 60,000 barrels.

“HB 541 is the most important legislation we’ve seen for Montana’s craft brewing industry in 18 years. The Legislature has signaled a green light for Montana breweries to grow, giving breweries the confidence to make investments to expand their production. That means more jobs, increased demand for Montana-grown barley and greater access to Montana craft beer,” said Matt Leow, executive director of the Montana Brewers Association.

HB 541 is sponsored by Rep. Adam Hertz (R-Missoula) and co-sponsored by Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and Rep. Greg Hertz (R-Polson). The bill faced a tough road in the Senate where it was amended in committee to set the production cap at 12,000 barrels and include a tax increase for breweries producing between 10,000 and 20,000 barrels annually. The 60,000 barrel limit was restored on the Senate floor along with new regulations for taprooms, limiting breweries to no more than three taprooms and a total of 2,000 barrels of on premises sales. The Montana Tavern Association withdrew their opposition to the bill with the inclusion of the taproom limitations.

“Rep. Hertz brought a great bill that was turned on its head in the Senate Business and Labor committee. We are pleased that the Senate restored the bill to 60,000 barrels. While we would prefer a clean bill without the new taproom limitations, the limits are set high enough that they will not impact what any breweries are currently doing,” said Leow.

Senate committee amendments sparked controversy last week when KettleHouse Brewing realized the changes, if they became law, would force the Missoula brewery to close its popular Northside taproom. The Senate resolved that issue with the amendment to restore the bill to 60,000 barrels.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride for HB 541 over the past week, but we ended up in a good place. Raising the production cap to 60,000 barrels clears the way for Montana breweries to compete in the regional marketplace. Montana is known for producing high quality beer, with our brewers winning national awards. This legislation will enable Montana brewers to pursue export opportunities and provide beer lovers in other states a taste of Montana,” said Leow.

With the House vote approving the Senate amendments, HB 541 is now heading to Governor Bullock’s desk to be signed into law.