Brewers from 34 breweries around the state recently convened in Missoula for the 10th Annual Montana Brewers Fall Rendezvous at Caras Park. Over 1,400 beer lovers braved the windy day to enjoy a selection of 120 beers. We had 21 special festival releases, including a Tequila-Barrel Aged Gose and a Maple-Infused Oktoberfest, that would be hard to find anywhere else in the state. There was something for every type of beer drinker, and all beers paired well with live music from the Dodgy Mountain Men and food from local vendors.
The MBA once again partnered with local homebrew club the Zoo City Zymurgists to judge beers vying for awards in 17 categories. The big winner of the night was MAP Brewing Company, winning Best Stout, Best Wood-Aged Beer, and Best Lager. They also capped off the night by taking home Best of Show for their Party Mexican Lager. Here’s the full list of winners –
Best Wheat – Beehive Basin Brewery‘s Don’t Hassle the Hef
Best Porter – Bozeman Brewing Company‘s Plum St Porter
Best Sour – Bozeman Brewing Company‘s Sour Brett Saison
Best Red Ale – Conflux Brewing Co‘s Irish Red Ale
Best Belgian – Flathead Lake Brewing Co.‘s Dirty Ginger
Best Scotch Ale –Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company‘s Mountain Man
Best Pilsner – Kalispell Brewing Company‘s Two Ski Brewski
Best IPA – KettleHouse Brewing Co.‘s Shady Brady IPA
Best Stout – MAP Brewing Co.‘s 80 Chain
Best Wood-Aged Beer – MAP Brewing Co.‘s Speedy G
Best Lager – MAP Brewing Co.‘s Party Mexican Lager
Best Pale Ale – Neptune’s Brewery‘s Pine Creek Pale Ale
Best Fruit/Specialty – Philipsburg Brewing Company‘s 5 Phantoms
Best Festival Special Release – Philipsburg Brewing Company‘s 5 Phantoms
Best Festbeir – Smelter City Brewing‘s Stacktoberfest Oktoberfest with Maple
Best Imperial IPA – Tamarack Brewing Company‘s Headwall Double IPA
BEST OF SHOW – MAP Brewing Co. for their PARTY Mexican Lager
Congratulations to the big winners and thank you to all the brewers, sponsors, and attendees for making this festival so great. This is the final MBA festival of the year, so stay tuned for the 2019 Rendezvous Tour announcement.
September 27 and 28, the DoubleTree in Missoula was taken over by 170 brewers, beer experts, and industry partners from all around North America. In collaboration with Fermentana, the MBA cohosted the 7th Annual Montana Brewers Conference, which was packed with educational presentations, interactive learning sessions, networking activities, and more.
We were excited to feature John Holl, Senior Editor of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, presenting his keynote address “Trying to Make Sense of These Interesting Beer Times” to kick things off on the first day. In addition to his work with Craft Beer & Brewing, Holl is the author of Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint and The American Craft Beer Cookbook, and the co-host of podcast Steal This Beer. After the keynote, Holl also presented in a breakout session to teach attendees how to interact with the press and create an effective media strategy for their breweries.
Also among the featured speakers were two representatives from the national Brewers Association. On Thursday, we heard from Chicago-based BA Sustainability Ambassador Ian Hughes, who presented the BA’s Sustainability Toolkit and shared tons of awesome sustainability resources for breweries. Friday featured a plenary session with Dr. J. Jackson-Beckham, the BA Diversity Ambassador, challenging us to rethink the way we approach diversity and inclusion in the craft beer industry. Both are true experts in their fields, and we were very lucky to have them both travel all the way to Missoula for the conference.
Both Thursday and Friday featured three tracks of breakout sessions covering brewing/technical information, business and marketing skills, and front of house management strategies. Attendees had a wide range of options and could choose anything from a session on D-system keg valves to a presentation on best practices for social media. We heard from Kara Taylor from White Labs on how to build a brewery lab, from Loy Maierhauser on implementing staff education programs, from Ruth Martin of Blacktooth Brewing on developing a brewery safety plan, and many more. We also featured multiple panel sessions featuring Montana brewers discussing barrel-aging, sustainability practices, pure distilled hop oils, and brewery expansions. It was a diverse and engaging line-up, and we are so grateful to all the speakers who came to share their expertise.
Attendees were also treated to some great Missoula hospitality from local breweries, starting with a pre-conference social at Gild on Wednesday evening. Conference sponsors Conflux Brewing hosted everyone on Thursday for dinner and beers, accompanied by brewery tours, live music from John Floridis and a beautiful sunset view from their deck. Friday afternoon featured a brewery tour and happy hour at Draught Works, where attendees got the chance to see their new canning line and taste some of their great beer.
We would like to thank all of the amazing sponsors who made this gathering possible – Tour Sponsors Big Sky Gas, Malteurop, and McDantim, Music Lover Sponsors Town Pump Hotel Group and Conflux Brewing Company, Gold Sponsors General Distributing, Crosby Hop Farm, and Alt 101.5, Silver Sponsors Montana Craft Malt, Gallatin Valley Malt, Amoretti, Advanced Chemical Solutions, GEA, G&D Chillers, and Wipfli, and Bronze Sponsors BKBH P.C., Stout Tanks and Kettles, Meissenburg Designs, Trail 103.3, Northwestern Extracts, Glacier Hops Ranch, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Sysco, Discovery Ski Area, Micro Matic, Country Malt Group, Stockman Insurance, and Flossy Goods.
Why release a state economic report at a brewery? Because craft brewing is making a serious impact in Montana’s economy.
During an event at Blackfoot River Brewing on September 4 to release the 2018 Montana Labor Day Report, Governor Steve Bullock and Montana Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Galen Hollenbaugh credited Montana’s craft brewing industry for its contributions to an overall positive economic outlook. Montana’s economy is growing and diversifying and Montana breweries are a major factor in that trend.
Growth in Montana’s craft brewing industry is contributing to the growth of manufacturing in Montana, which ranks third for per capita growth in manufacturing over the past five years. During that time, Montana’s manufacturing sector added $100 million in GDP, according to the Labor Day Report. Food and beverage manufacturing, including brewing, is the second largest segment of Montana’s manufacturing industry.
From 2012 to 2017, the number of breweries in Montana doubled. As of today, there are 82 breweries open and operating in the state with several more in planning, and Montana once again ranks second for breweries per capita. The industry’s annual economic impact in Montana is $417 million, according to 2016 data from the Brewers Association, and Montana ranks fifth for per capita economic impact from the state’s brewing industry.
Meanwhile, Montana’s tourism industry continues to grow. On the list for many tourists coming to Montana to ski, fish or visit our national parks is checking out the local craft brewing scene. The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITTR) finds that in 2017 non-residents spent over $3.24 billion in our state. Those tourism dollars support nearly 50,000 jobs in Montana, including brewery jobs. Additional ITTR research on resident travel finds that Montanans spent another $2.87 billion on travel in Montana. Depending on the region, 7 percent to 21 percent of those in-state travelers reported visiting a brewery during their trips.
Breweries have one foot in the hospitality industry, and the other foot firmly planted in the manufacturing industry. Taprooms serving beer and food to guests is the face of the industry most familiar to the public. A taproom certainly is an important part of a brewery’s business, exposing new consumers to their beers, serving as a community gathering space, and providing an essential revenue stream. But don’t forget the manufacturing side of the business – the brewhouse, which is any brewery’s true heart and soul.
That’s part of what makes this such an exciting and dynamic industry. It really is a nexus between so many things – outdoor adventures, a vibrant taproom scene, the tourism industry, the art of craft beer, and manufacturing jobs. Breweries turn revenue from the taproom into capital investments for the brewery, such as a canning line or additional brewing equipment for an expansion. In this way, breweries are using tourism dollars to fuel growth on the manufacturing side. Montana’s thriving craft brewing industry wouldn’t be where it is without the capital that comes into each business through the taproom.
Beer is fun and craft is cool, but craft beer is also serious business. All of these positive economic numbers highlight the serious economic impact Montana craft breweries are making while producing award-winning beers and earning national attention.
Every year, thousands of beer lovers convene in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, a massive 3-day beer event hosted by the Brewers Association. According to the BA, this year’s event offered the 62,000 attendees samples of over 4,000 beers from more than 800 breweries from all over the nation. Montana breweries have been making a splash at GABF for years, and at this year’s festival the Montana victories continued.
Out of the 8,496 entries in 102 beer categories, Montana breweries took home a grand total of five awards. Most notably, Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. from Helena took home three medals plus the prestigious award of Small Brewery of the Year. Montana brewers have now taken home Small Brewery or Very Small Brewery of the Year awards three out of the last five years at GABF. The winning tradition started off with Draught Works winning Very Small Brewery of the Year in 2014, then Uberbrew winning Small Brewery of the Year in 2016, and was continued this year with Lewis & Clark. These esteemed awards are determined by professional beer judges from all over the world (traveling from 14 countries this year) and are highly sought after at GABF. Out of such a competitive pool of thousands of breweries, it is clear that Montana is making some really great beer.
Check out the full list of this year’s Montana winners:
Grand Prize: Custom Sherpa Offroad Camper Trailer
Winner receives an offroad teardrop trailer from Sherpa Trailers with two roof racks, double awnings, a stereo, a TV, a solar power system, and more great features.
1st Prize: Great American Beer Festival
Winner receives a trip for two to the 2019 Great American Beer Festival, the premier U.S. beer festival and competition, in Denver, Colorado.
2nd Prize: NRS Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard
Winner receives AIRE’s premier stand up paddleboard. Package includes a paddle, bag, and air pump.
3rd Prize: Avalanche Safety Packages
Winner receives two avalanche safety packages, complete with Pieps Beacons, touring shovels, and touring probes.
4th Prize: MT Beer Kegerator
Winner receives an Edgestar Kegerator with a custom tap handle and one free keg from the MBA member of your choice!
Tickets are $100 each and include a Montana Brew Crew Membership (Brew Crew Card entitles you to a free beer at 35 breweries). Funds support the MBA’s work to promote Montana craft beer and create a regulatory environment that allows Montana’s craft brewing industry to flourish.
Tickets are limited and can only be purchased at an MBA member brewery.