Craft beers lovers showed up in Missoula’s Caras park on Saturday, September 14 for the Montana Brewers Fall Rendezvous and were treated to a beautiful fall day while enjoying the best Montana breweries have to offer. The much anticipated event featured only Montana craft beer, including hard to find beers and special release beers brewed just for the annual event, along with awards in 15 categories plus Best of Fest.
Ten breweries took home awards for their outstanding brews, including Outlaw, which won Best of Fest for their Oktoberfest.
Several breweries walked away from judging with a lot to celebrate. Union Hall took home two awards, in the Pale Ale and Saison categories, just two weeks after opening in downtown Bozeman. Lucas Sooy, head brewer at Union Hall Brewery, said winning two awards at the Fall Rendezvous was an honor.
“It means so much to be a part of the brewery community in Bozeman and especially Montana,” said Sooy.
Last year, Conflux won their first Montana Brewers Fall Rendezvous Award just weeks after opening. They followed that up by winning three awards this year, repeating in the Red Ale category while also picking up awards for Imperial IPA and Wheat Beer. MAP also collected awards in three different categories – Belgian, Stout and Wood Aged – making it the third year in a row MAP picked up multiple awards.
“We strive to craft the best beers possible and we’re proud to have recognition from our fellow Montanan’s” said MAP owner, Patrick Kainz. “The Fall Rendezvous is a highlight for Montana’s craft brewers and it’s reassuring we’re doing a good job when qualified palates agree.”
Each year, the Montana Brewers Association partners with Zoo City Zymurgists to judge over 100 beers from member breweries.
Judging began in the morning to allow awards to be announced at 3:30 during the VIP hour. After determining the best beers in each of the fifteen categories, judges tasted those category winners in a head-to-head competition to award the Best of Fest.
Congratulations to all the winners. Be sure to give these beers a try the next time you’re out enjoying Montana’s craft breweries.
Montana breweries made another strong showing at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Four Montana breweries brought home a total of six medals, including four gold and two bronze.
The event, which took place October 3-5 in Denver, is the largest ticketed beer festival in North America and one of the largest events of its kind in the world. There were more than 4,000 beers from over 800 breweries poured for the public during this year’s event. The competition for medals was even more crowded with 2,295 breweries from all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands participating. All combined, there were 9,497 beers entered for judging with an average of 88 beers entered in each category.
“This year’s GABF competition was the largest and most competitive to date,” said Chris Swersey, competition manager, Great American Beer Festival. “The beers and talent were as impressive as ever, and we congratulate this year’s winners for their achievements in brewing.”
From the thousands of beers entered, judges awarded 318 medals in 107 categories to 283 breweries. Four Montana breweries rose to the top in this crowded competition, earning the following medals in their respective categories:
Gold Medal – English-Style Brown Ale – Bobcat Brown Ale
Gold Medal – Oatmeal Stout – 80 Chain
Bronze Medal – International Pilsenser – Party
Gold Medal – Experimental Beer – Fungus Shui
Bronze Medal – Aged Beer – Mob Barley
Gold Medal – American-Style Black Ale – Alpha Force Double Tap
Montana breweries have a strong track record at GABF, with Montana beer earning medals in every competition since 2001. On top of that, a Montana brewery has won Small Brewery of the Year or Very Small Brewery of the Year in three of the last six years.
Überbrew won the prestigious Small Brewery of the Year award at the 2016 GABF and has medaled each of the last four years. This year they continued their domination in the American-Style Black Ale category, winning gold with Alpha Force Double Tap after doing the same in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
For the other three Montana medalists – Bridger, MAP and Meadowlark – this was the first year winning at GABF. They joined just 34 other breweries as first-time winners. MAP also won in their very first outing at GABF, being one of 401 first-time entrants in the competition.
Next time you visit Bridger, MAP, Meadowlark or Überbrew be sure to congratulate them for their award winning beers, and give those brews a taste while you’re at it.
For the full list of 2019 medal winners or to explore previous GABF results, go to the Brewers Association GABF Winners page.
For the past two years, Montana has held the number two spot for most breweries per capita in the nation (9.6 per 100,000 adults in 2017 and 11.4 in 2018), and that means a lot of Montana communities are enjoying local beer along with the benefits that come with it. While local beer in Montana can be traced back to 1863 when Gilbert Brewing was established in Virginia City, Montana saw a local beer drought from 1968, when Great Falls Select closed its doors, until 1984, when the second iteration of Kessler Brewing began operations in Helena. Today, with 90 breweries operating in 46 communities across Montana, local beer is thriving in Montana.
There’s no doubt that breweries have quickly become gathering places for friends and neighbors and are playing a key part in their respective communities. From Sidney to Stevensville, breweries are creating jobs, giving back to their communities, and fueling reinvestment in neighborhoods where abandoned buildings once dotted city blocks.
Golden Triangle in Fort Benton most recently opened its doors at the end of August. Owners Brandon Roberts and Stacia Fuzesy have been in the planning process for two years and designed the brewery to be a community space. Roberts points out that Golden Triangle customers are not only supporting the brewery but also benefiting their community of Fort Benton.
“We hope that our community will benefit from Golden Triangle through the shared brewery model of fundraising, activities, and in turn being an economic engine,” says Roberts.
Another eight breweries in planning are set to open in the next several years in Thompson Falls, East Helena, Ronan, Missoula, and Lavina. Lavina will become the smallest town in Montana to have a brewery, and a small brewery can have a big impact in a town like Lavina. In fact, the addition of a brewery in Lavina has the ability to bring the community together before they even serve their first pint and White City Brewing Owner Brent Nice recognizes the importance of community when it comes to taking on an endeavor like this. Last month, Nice invited friends and neighbors to a painting party to help him make progress on the brewery.
“The community is pretty excited about the opportunities it’s going to provide, and many people have pitched in to get things accomplished,” says Nice.
Coming soon to a town near you:
Craft beer is making a big economic impact, both nationally and in Montana, according to the Brewers Association’s 2018 Economic Impact Report released in late September. The report finds that the craft brewing industry provided 559,545 total jobs nationally, with 150,055 jobs directly at breweries. The report also finds that craft brewing in the United States contributes $79.1 billion to the economy, a 4 percent increase from 2017.
The growth is even more robust in Montana, with the industry generating an economic impact of $496 million in 2018, a 12 percent increase from 2017. Meanwhile, the industry continues to add jobs in Montana. The Brewers Association’s 2017 economic report found that Montana’s craft brewing industry had a total jobs impact of 2,732. The 2018 report finds that the industry is responsible for 3,562 jobs in Montana. That’s an increase of 30 percent in just one year.
“With a strong presence across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, craft breweries are a vibrant and flourishing economic force at the local, state and national level. As consumers continue to demand a wide range of high quality, full-flavored beers, small and independent craft brewers are meeting this growing demand with innovative offerings, creating high levels of economic value in the process.”
Bart Watson, Brewers Association chief economist
Montana ranks in the middle of the pack of states when looking at raw numbers. Montana ranks 36th for total economic impact at $496 million in 2018. Montana ranks 25th for the number of craft breweries and 27th for barrels of beer produced, with 92 breweries producing 197,167 barrels in 2018. However, those rankings belie the significant impact of craft brewing in Montana, simply because they do not account for Montana’s relatively small population.
State rankings based on per capita data paint a very different picture. Montana’s 11.4 breweries per 100,000 21+ adults puts the state in second for breweries per capita, and at 7.6 gallons brewed per 21+ adult, Montana ranks 8th in per capita production. The Big Sky State also ranks high for economic impact per capita at sixth with $626 per 21+ adult.
“Buying local Montana craft beer, rather than beer brewed elsewhere, means more of your dollars stay in the local economy and support other local businesses. Lucky for us, we can enjoy great beer while supporting our local economy because Montana breweries are producing some of the best beer you’ll find anywhere,” says Matt Leow, Montana Brewers Association executive director
The end of the year means we’re getting ready for our 2019 Raffle Drawing party! Join us at Katabatic Brewing in Livingston on Friday, January 10 to see if you won any of our awesome raffle prizes, from a Sherpa trailer to a Yeti cooler full of Montana beer. Follow us on Facebook for more details about the party.
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.
By the time the 8th annual Montana Brewers Conference concluded, kegs were emptied, swag was swapped, and brewers and industry partners walked away with new motivation to craft Montana’s beer future.
Author and lifelong journalist Stan
Hieronymus kicked off the conference with a keynote about local beer and spoke to the relevance of the industry. Hieronymus made the case that consumers’ preferences for buying local is essential to the success of craft beer, and he believes this trend is only going to continue. Attendees who chose to attend seminars in the technical track had the opportunity to hear from Hieronymus again as he dove into hops on day two of the conference – from the history of hop breeding to the chemical composition of hops.
Hieronymus was joined by 30 other speakers who brought their expertise to Missoula for two days of learning and networking, along with nearly 200 attendees and over 30 sponsors representing companies from across the nation, making this year’s conference one of our best-attended to date.
“There’s something undeniably cool and special happening in Montana’s craft brewing community, and it’s an awesome thing to be a part of” said Matt Drew from Montana Craft Malt. “As a newcomer to the Montana craft scene, the MBA conference was an invaluable way to connect with smart and talented members of our community, all of them doing their own part to drive the Montana craft brewing scene forward and into the national spotlight.”
The conference was held September 12 and 13 in Missoula and featured three tracks for attendees each tailored to different needs for people in the industry. Our front of house, business, and technical tracks featured incredible speakers from fermentation labs to marketing firms and everything in between. While industry partners from as far as Georgia had the chance to bring their expertise to a break out session, local brewers also led discussions on distribution agreements, apprenticeship programs, and brewery events.
“This was our first Montana Brewer’s conference and we found it to be incredibly helpful at our stage of development. The round table discussions regarding marketing strategies and the technical presentations were especially helpful” said Scott Hansing, co-owner and co-brewer of Missouri River Brewing Company, set to open in the spring of 2020 in East Helena.
Both Montana’s U.S. senators, Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Steve Daines, shared words of support with conference attendees (Sen. Tester through a letter read by his regional director and Sen. Daines via video). Our senators highlighted the economic impact of breweries in Montana, an industry that supports more than 3,500 jobs, generates an economic impact of nearly a half a billion dollars annually and purchases more than three million pounds of grain from Montana farmers each year. They also voiced their support for the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act which would provide tax relief for small breweries, thus helping breweries across the country to reinvest in their businesses and increase economic development.
While many state guilds don’t have an annual conference, Montana is lucky to not only have an opportunity to bring industry partners together, but also be a part of a community that is growing every year.
“We would highly recommend the conference to any brewery, whether just opened, in construction, or in planning,” said Hansing.
Mark your calendars for the 9th annual Montana Brewers Conference, October 1 and 2, 2020 at the Holiday Inn Downtown in Missoula.