At the end of September, breweries and industry partners gathered in Missoula for the annual Montana Brewers Conference. More than 150 brewers, industry partners, and community leaders participated in the two-day conference which featured informative presentations from engaging speakers, interactive sessions, and networking socials around Missoula.
On Thursday, attendees heard from Ryan Warriner, our first keynote speaker. In his empowering keynote address, “Brew yourself a better business and a happier life!” Warriner described how to take back control of our decisions and actions to achieve the most positive outcomes. Warriner is a Professor of Communication at McMaster University, Executive Trainer & Coach, Professional Speaker, and the author of the innovative book, The Effective Presenter: The Winning Formula for Business Communication. Additionally, he is the host of the Professionally Speaking Podcast and a recurring author for Thrive Global. It was a pleasure to learn from Warriner’s wisdom.
On Thursday, Loy Maierhauser (MAP Brewing) and Mark Bergstrom (Bozeman Brewing) hosted a Montana Brewers Roundtable, a guided session of anonymous beer evaluation and community building. Speakers from the craft breweries and industry partners shared their expertise in breakout sessions as well. This included Malteurop, who explored the entire process of getting malt to a brewery and into beer. We also heard from Zachary Schmidt and Rob Rustad from Waypoint Wealth Management, who shared how to find and keep great employees. Appropriately, we wrapped up day one of the conference with beer and arcade games at GILD, hosted by Strategic Tax Planning, followed by a film screening of “Brewmaster” and “Montana Hops” at the Roxy Theater.
Our Friday keynote speaker was Bart Watson, Chief Economist of the Brewers Association, a position he has held since 2013. Prior to his position with the BA, Watson was a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Iowa. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. In his address “Economic & Market Trends: Shaping the Craft Industry in 2022,” Watson shared insights into the growth, demographic shifts, and competition in the craft beer industry today. An aging population, combined with the economic challenge of inflation, are forecasted to impact craft beer sales in the coming years. Additionally, Watson shared that the industry faces liquor gaining increased market share generally, with the potential for more acute impacts due to the rise of canned, ready-to-drink cocktails. Despite these challenges, the industry has continued to grow, and while new brewery openings have slowed nationally, that trend has been less pronounced in Montana.
Friday also featured nine sessions, for a total of 18 sessions with speakers sharing their expertise and experience with attendees during two days of learning and fun! Sessions included everything from learning about wood-aged beer techniques to packing innovation and trends. We also heard from Blindtiger Designs, who traveled from Washington to discuss business models and approaches to help guide through every level of brand decisions. We concluded our conference at Big Sky Brewing with lawn games, dinner from the Empanada Joint and, of course, beers, generously hosted by Harvest Hosts.
The annual MBA Conference is not complete without the trade show. A total of 33 vendors participated in the two-day trade show, bringing in their knowledge from across the state and nation. Vendors were able to showcase and discuss their products and services, generating great conversations and networking opportunities!
The 2023 Montana Brewers Conference is scheduled to take place at the Holiday Inn in beautiful downtown Missoula, MT, Wednesday and Thursday, September 27-28. The Fall Rendezvous Brewfest and judged competition will immediately follow on Friday, September, 29 in Caras Park. We hope you join us next year!
The MBA thanks our 2022 MT Brewers fall event sponsors who helped make it all possible.
TOUR SPONSORS: Gallatin Valley Malt, McDantim
PLATINUM SPONSOR: Townsquare Media
GOLD SPONSORS: Flathead Valley Hops, Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, Wipfli
SILVER SPONSORS: Amoretti, Anderson Forklift, Big Sky Hops, BSG, Crosby Hops, Deutsche Beverage, First West Insurance, General Distributing, Imperial Yeast, Montana Craft Beer Connection, Montana Craft Malt, Saxco, VEGA, White Labs
BRONZE SPONSORS: ABS Commercial, Blindtiger Designs, Briess, Glacier Hops Ranch, Harvest Hosts, Malteurop, Montana Safety & Health Consultation Program, MSU Barley, Malt & Brewing Quality Lab, Northwestern Extract, Stockman Insurance, Strategic Tax Planning, UBC Group, and Waypoint Wealth Management.
On Saturday, October 1st, 38 breweries from across Montana gathered at Missoula’s Caras Park for the Montana Brewers Fall Rendezvous Brewfest. More than 1,200 craft beer lovers braved the rain to enjoy a selection of over 140 beers. Paired with live music from Hardwood Heart and food from local vendors, this was the ultimate Montana beer experience!
Each fall, the Montana Brewers Association concludes our Rendezvous tour with a judged beer competition and brewfest. This year, the competition was Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) certified, bringing in an array of certified judges from across Montana and beyond.
11 breweries took home awards for their champion brews, including Ronan Cooperative Brewery, which won best in show for their Mud Lake Dunkles Bock.
Jim Myers, Head Brewer at Ronan Cooperative Brewery, shared his excitement about winning best in show: “There is so much good beer being made in Montana right now, so even knowing that two years in our beers are on that level after opening during a pandemic with a unique business model designed around community revitalization is reassuring. Winning a best in show is the coolest icing on the cake.”
This was Myers’s first MBA Rendezvous, which he describes as a “beer fantasy camp.” Ultimately, Myers hopes that winning Best in Show brings more traffic to Ronan and helps to build economic sustainability and community momentum.
Myers exclaimed: “We’ll definitely be brewing that beer again this winter, so if you’re wanting to get in on the experience, please, stop in, have a glass, and say hi.”
Awards were given to brewers for the best beer in each of the 14 style categories plus an overall Best in Show.
Dark Lager- Ronan Cooperative Brewery with Mud Lake Dunkles Bock
Amber/Red/Brown Ale – Copper Furrow Brewing with Brandon’s Brown
Belgian-style Ale – MAP Brewing Co. with Small Axe Belgian Single
Blonde/Cream/Wheat Ale – Cranky Sam Public House with Tropical Blonde Summer Ale
Dark Ale – Missouri River Brewing Co. with Wee Scotsman Scotch Ale
Experimental- Old Bull Brewing with Kind of a Big Dill Spicy Pickle Blonde Ale
Fruit/Vegetable/Spiced Beer – Missouri River Brewing Co. with The Slasher Pumpkin Ale
Hard Seltzer/Kombucha – Zesty Beverages with Mountain Huckleberry Hard Kombucha
Best Hazy – Old Bull Brewing with Bugle Juice
IPA – Cranky Sam Public House with Hidden Lady
Pale Ale – Bridger Brewing with Lee Metcalf
Pale Lager – Mighty Mo Brewing Company with Six Point Pils
Sour Beers – Neptune’s Brewery with Watermelon Sour
Wood-Aged Beer – Conflux Brewing Company with La Montage Wine Barrel-Aged Saison
Best in Show – Ronan Cooperative Brewery for their Mud Lake Dunkles Bock
Congratulations to all the award-winning brewers and thanks to everyone who showed up to make it an amazing evening in Missoula. This is the final MBA festival of the year. The 2023 Montana Brewers Fall Rendezvous will return to Missoula’s Caras park on Friday, September 29. Stay tuned for next year’s full Rendezvous Tour announcement!
Montana is approaching the 100 breweries milestone. Several breweries have opened their doors over the past year. As the number of breweries grows, so does the MBA. Please join us in welcoming our newest members.
Mt. Ascension is one of Montana’s newest breweries, having just opened in August. Located in the Independent building in downtown Helena, Mt. Ascension Brewing Company offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The brewery hosts a downstairs taproom and a rooftop outdoor taproom seating area, making their customer’s experience a memorable one.
Last Best Place opened on New Year’s Eve 2021 after years of planning, contributing to Bozeman’s thriving craft beer scene. They are located in a beautiful new building on the corner of 7th Avenue and Durston Ave and offer 10 beers on tap.
Montana breweries made a strong showing at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival® (GABF) competition in Denver, Colorado, bringing home a total of six medals, including one gold, two bronze, and three silver.
Presented by the Brewers Association, GABF is the nation’s largest commercial beer competition and recognizes the most outstanding beers produced in the United States. This year, GABF competition winners were selected by an international panel of 235 expert judges from 9,904 entries, plus 94 Collaboration and 35 Pro-Am entries, received from 2,154 U.S. breweries.
According to Chris Williams, GABF competition director, this year’s competition was the most competitive to date.
Congrats to Überbrew, MAP Brewing Company, Shred Monk Brewing, Canyon Creek Brewing, Philipsburg Brewing Company, and Thirsty Street Brewing Company for their medals at the 2022 GABF competition.
Überbrew was recognized with a gold medal in the American Wheat Beer style category for its White Noise.
MAP Brewing Company was recognized with a bronze medal in the Experimental Beer style category for its Great Wave Sake Lager.
Shred Monk Brewery was recognized with a bronze medal in the German-Style Pilsner category for its German Pilsner.
Canyon Creek Brewing was recognized with a silver medal in the Irish-Style Red Ale category for its Rabbit Head Red.
Philipsburg Brewing Company was recognized with a silver medal in the Pumpkin Beer style category for its 5 Phantoms.
Thirsty Street Brewing Co was recognized with a silver medal in the Stout style category for its Big Bison.
For more GABF competition information, including the 2022 winners list and photos, visit https://www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com.