The 8th annual Montana Brewers Conference will recognize and celebrate the amazing growth we’ve seen in the industry and look to the future of the craft.
Stan Hieronymus will be this year’s keynote speaker. His talk, “Local beer is back, and it ain’t going anywhere,” highlights why we can only expect this growth to continue.
Plan to join the MBA and Fermentana in Missoula at the Montana Brewers Conference September 12 – 14 at the Holiday Inn. The conference focuses how to equip our breweries, both new and established, with the tools they need to succeed in a congested market, stand out among competitors, and continue to be a bedrock of job creation and charity for local communities.
The conference will feature three tracksrelevant to the industry – front of house, technical, and business. Each will offer breweries a look at how this industry is crafting Montana’s future.
Nationwide and within the state of Montana, we continue to see that the future of craft beer is bright. While beer production by volume dropped in 2018, craft production rose by 3.9% and from 2017 to 2018, we saw a 12.9% increase in the number of breweries across the nation.
In Montana, from 2017 to 2018 the state went from 75 operating craft breweries to 92, giving us 11.4 breweries per capita – the second highest in the nation just behind Vermont.
This dramatic increase in the number of craft breweries operating in the state helped us gain the support necessary to pass HB 541 at the 2017 state session, which raised the limit on how many barrels craft breweries can sell every year while still operating a tasting room. Before 2017, breweries could only keg 10,000 barrels a year and with the passage of HB 541, breweries can now keg 60,000 a year.
Policy victories like HB 541 are made possible by a thriving and engaged craft brewing culture in Montana and we expect to see more advancements in the industry as we continue to grow.
Many communities in Montana are now home to a local brewery, and if the town you’re in doesn’t have one, you can probably locate one a town or two over. But has it always been this way? Well yes and no.
The Montana Historical Society plans for an upcoming exhibit looking at the history of craft beer in the state. Good Beer Here: Montana’s Brewing History, may not whet your whistle, but it will give you a better idea on just how much the industry has evolved in the state over the past 150 plus years.
You’ll learn about Montana’s first brewers, where they set up shop and the methods they used to both brew and transport beer. You’ll get a chance to view equipment from one of the state’s earliest breweries, Gilbert Brewing, which was established in 1863. Alongside items from Gilbert Brewing will be artifacts from Kessler Brewing Company. Kessler was one of the longest running breweries in the state which by 1949 was bottling 24,000 bottles of beer a day and distributing throughout the northwest.
For those unfamiliar with the art and science of brewing, the exhibit walks you through the beer making process and provide samples of barley, malted barley, and hops for you to view and smell. Delve into the history of barley farming in the state and how we’ve emerged as one of the top producers of malting barley in the world.
Find out what factors played in to Montana passing a statewide prohibition on alcohol in 1916 and the effects it had on the state’s brewing industry both during and following nationwide prohibition (spoiler: it wasn’t pretty). We’ll explore the rise of the larger regional and domestic breweries and how this marked the beginning of the end for beers brewed in the state from the 1960s to the 1980s.
State laws put in place following the repeal of prohibition no longer allowed breweries to own bars, which made it hard for Montana brewery owners to gain a foothold in the state in the 1980s and ‘90s. Listen to excerpts from oral histories given by those who played a role in getting legislation passed to allow for on-site sale and consumption of beer through taprooms.
Artifacts from some of Montana’s current breweries, including many members of the MBA, will also be on display. Modern day brewery taprooms have become cultural hubs. Learn about how many breweries connect themselves to the land and the community by sourcing local ingredients, naming beers after landmarks and people, and raising funds for community organizations.
Besides pulling artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collection, several items from Steve Lozar’s Montana Brewery Museum in Polson will be on display. Steve played a role in helping develop the Montana Brewery Oral History Project which served as the catalyst for the museum exhibit. The interviews focus on the rebirth of the craft beer scene in the state along with the fight to legalize taprooms during the 1990’s. You can check out the oral histories online. A second round of the project is slated to begin next year. It will focus on breweries from the 2000s to present, the formation of the Montana Brewers Association and Montana’s barely industry.
Good Beer Here: Montana’s Brewing History opens January 23, 2020 and runs through the end of 2021 at the Montana Historical Society in Helena. For museum hours of operation, location, and information on upcoming events please visit our website.
Growth in Montana’s craft brewing industry is spurring the growth of another industry – craft malting. Two craft maltsters, Gallatin Valley Malt and Farm Power Malt, opened in the past couple years. A third, Montana Craft Malt, is entering the scene with malt production beginning this month in Butte.
Growing and malting quality barley has a long tradition in Montana and the state is a leading producer of malt barley used in breweries throughout the world. Montana produced 33.6 million bushels of barley in 2018, second only to Idaho for barley production in the United States, according to USDA data. Montana is consistently in the top three states for barley production. Much of that harvest is shipped out of state but some of it also stays in Montana to be turned into malt, primarily at Malteurop’s Great malthouse, one of 27 facilities they operate around the world. The malt coming from Malteurop in Great Falls ends up in beers brewed at everything from the largest megabrewery to the smallest nano brewery.
New players are now entering the market, seeing an opportunity to supply craft breweries with craft malt produced in Montana. Craft brewers are always exploring new recipes and seeking new ingredients for their beer. Essentially, the public’s demand for new flavors and variety in their beer is driving demand for more variety in malt.
“The craft brewing industry has spawned some really cool opportunities for farmers by taking a product that has most often been a commodity but now has unique characteristics associated with people, faces, farms, fields, and stories. By building a craft malting facility on our farm we can create that,” says Karl DeJonge, owner and founder of Gallatin Valley Malt.
Gallatin Valley Malt began operations in 2017 on a small family farm in Manhattan, MT as way to add value to the barley they were already growing. The business is growing and now uses barley from multiple farms in the area to produce malt for breweries and distilleries throughout the region. Business is good and DeJonge seems to be having fun doing it.
“Knowing our customers names, their passions, and watching them create something unique. For us, Craft Malting is a Blast!”
The brewing industry has an annual economic impact in Montana of $442 million and directly employs around 1,000 Montanans, according to data from the Montana Brewers Association. That economic impact goes far beyond the walls of each brewery, and the industry supports a total of 2,732 jobs in Montana. The emergence of these new, locally owned craft malting businesses in Montana illustrates the growing impact craft brewing is having on the state’s economy, creating jobs and business opportunities in related industries. As with the craft brewing industry, it just as much about the art as it is about the business.
“Our passion is making distinct malt from unique grains grown on our family farm in a handcrafted malting drum with the end goal of a perfect Montana beer or whiskey, says Ryan Pfeifle owner and founder of Farm Power Malt.
Pfeifle’s family has been farming in Power, MT since his great grandfather emigrated from Germany and began farming there over 100 years ago. For generations they grew barley for the big breweries, but now they are diversifying the family farm with the addition of craft malting operations, producing what Pfeifle calls “farm fresh, small batch, single origin, artisan malt.” Additionally, Pfeifle is bringing back old barley varieties that have found a new market in the world of craft brewing and distilling.
Pfeifle built his small-scale malting facility by hand right there on the family farm. He points out that what they are doing is unique, being the only malting facility using a drum in Montana. He says that mixing in the drum is a very gentle process allowing them to do a lot more mixing without damaging the fragile kernels.
“We buck convention and mix during the kiln. This exposes the malt to many hot, cold, wet, dry cycles, creating a richer flavor,” says Pfeifle.
Montana Craft Malt opening this summer in Butte, makes three craft maltsters in as many years. The business started as a dream of Ron Ueland and his daughter, Jen O’Brien. Though Ueland passed away last year, O’Brien kept the dream alive and the facility on which they broke ground in spring 2018 is just days away from producing Montana grown and made craft malt.
The 10,000 ton project is on a different scale than Farm Power Malt, capable of producing 22,000,000 million pounds of malt annually, servicing brewers, distillers, and food makers. The facility will focus on production scale malting but is also well equipped to offer research and development services to large and small partners through its Innovation and Research Center.
Montana’s craft brewing industry has provided the platform for the creation of these craft malting businesses. Local demand from Montana breweries for their products created the opportunity, but the potential goes far beyond Montana. As this budding industry grows, that means taking more of Montana’s annual barley production and turning it into a value added product to be used by craft breweries in Montana and beyond. So, keep enjoying that Montana craft beer. It’s a tasty way to support your local farmers and maltsters.
The Montana Brewers Association is excited to join Feed Montana, a fundraising competition in its fifth year benefitting the Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN). This year’s goal for MFBN is to raise $70,000, the equivalent of 210,000 meals, to benefit the organization and raise awareness for hunger fighting efforts across the state.
Across Montana one in nine Montanans struggle to put food on the table. The MFBN’s efficient use of donations allows them to turn $1 into three meals for people struggling with food insecurity. The MBA’s goal is to raise $2,000 for the campaign, the equivalent of 6,000 meals for Montanans struggling with hunger.
Feed Montana is replacing the MFBN’s annual pint night in December, but that doesn’t mean our brewers are going to sit on the sidelines this year.
“Breweries across the state have been so kind to continually support MFBN and the work we do,” says Cassidy Green, MFBN’s Marketing and Events Coordinator. “We’re excited to see how they get involved this year.”
Everyone is encouraged to donate to our team, whether or not you work at a brewery! To donate, visit feedmt.org. Click on “Donate Now” and then select the “Montana Brewers” under “Pick a Fundraising Team.”
Golden Triangle, Fort Benton
Koocanusa Brewery, Eureka
Limberlost Brewing, Thompson Falls
Missouri River Brewing, East Helena
Ronan Cooperative Brewery, Ronan
White City Brewing, Lavina
Grand Prize: Custom Montana Sherpa Offroad Camper Trailer
Winner receives the ultimate custom adventure trailer – a state of the art Offroad Sherpa Trailer with roof rack, foxwing awning, stereo, solar power system, and more great features.
1st Prize: NRS Inflatable Kayak
Winner receives NRS Inflatable Kayak, paddle, and pump.
2nd Prize: Fly Rod and Guided Fishing Trip
Winner receives 5 weight Safe fly rod (reel and line included), and a guided trip for two from CrossCurrents Fly Shop on either the Missouri, “Land of the Giants,” Blackfoot, or Dearborn.
3rd Prize: Concert Tickets to KettleHouse Amphitheater
Winner receives a $700 gift card from Logjam, good for tickets, food or drinks at the Top Hat, Wilma, and KettleHouse Amphitheater.
4th Prize: Yeti Cooler Filled with MT Beer
Winner receives Yeti Tundra cooler filled with Montana craft beer.
Tickets are $100 each and include a Montana Brew Crew Card Membership (Brew Crew entitles you to a free beer at 37 breweries). Funds support the MBA’s work to promote Montana craft beer and create a regulator environment that allows Montana’s craft brewing industry to flourish.
Tickets are limited and can only be purchased at an MBA member brewery.
Rules and Restrictions for 2019 Raffle: The sale of these raffle tickets are for a charitable raffle to the Montana Brewers Association and are not tax-deductible. Must be 21 to enter and be eligible for the listed prizes. The sale of raffle tickets authorized by this part is restricted to events and participants within Montana. The sale of raffle tickets may not be conducted over the internet. The winner is responsible for picking up their prize. The raffle will be conducted on January 10, 2020 by a random drawing of all entries from all tickets sold.