As we near the halfway point of the 2023 Montana State Legislative Session, we celebrate what has thus far been a successful session for Montana brewers. One bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law, another passed by the House and is now waiting to be heard in the Senate committee, and a third recently passed by the Senate will soon be heard by the House committee.
Rather than pushing bills that stoke conflict between brewers and our industry partners, this year we have focused on legislative proposals that have consensus among the various alcohol industry groups. Our three priorities include bills to allow brewers to purchase a retail license (HB 305), serve beers brewed in collaboration with another brewer at their facility (SB 312) and expand access to an academic brewer license to all Montana University System institutions (HB 31).
HB 305 and SB 312 have been approved by the House and Senate respectively, meaning both are halfway through the legislative process to become law. Meanwhile, HB 31 has already passed both chambers and just needs Gov. Gianforte’s signature to make it official. None of the bills encountered opposition in their hearings to date and all enjoyed broad support from the various alcohol industry groups. HB 31 was even taken up by the Department of Revenue in advance of the session and became part of Gov. Gianforte’s Red Tape Relief package of legislation.
The seeds of this successful session were planted long before Montana’s 68th Legislative Assembly was gaveled in. Over the past several years, the Montana Brewers Association has met with industry partner organizations representing distillers, distributors, gaming, large brewers, liquor stores, restaurants, and taverns, as well as staff from the Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to discuss legislative proposals.
The various organizations and the industries they represent don’t always see eye-to-eye, and policy discussions sometimes devolve into turf battles. Taking those contentious conversations out of the pressure and time constraints of a legislative session has allowed us to be more deliberative and cooperative in finding solutions. Additionally, the common threat posed to all our industries by the COVID-19 pandemic became an opportunity to work together to navigate the crisis and build trust among the groups.
We worked diligently during the 20 months between the end of the 2021 session and the start of this session to discuss legislative concepts with our industry partners, solicit input, identify points of conflict, and find that middle ground of compromise while moving the ball forward for our industry. That work is bearing fruit at this year’s legislative session.
MBA’s policy priorities for 2023:
License Stacking – HB 305, sponsored by Rep. Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls), will allow manufacturers, including brewers, to own up to three retail licenses. One of the three must be co-located at a manufacturing premises, while the other two are flexible, allowing for a brewery to also have satellite taphouses. Passage of this bill would mark a huge step forward for Montana brewers, providing an avenue for breweries to get beyond the limits of 48 ounces per customer and service ending at 8 pm.
February 2: Approved by the House Business and Labor Committee 19-0
February 9: Passed the House 95-4
Academic Brewer License – HB 31, sponsored by Rep. Ross Fitzgerald (R-Power), removes the restriction on the existing academic brewer license that allows only MSU-Billings and Flathead Valley Community College to utilize it. This arbitrary restriction hampers research and training programs at other institutions. For example, Barley, Malt and Brewing Quality Lab, located at MSU in Bozeman may have “brewing” in the name but the school cannot currently obtain a license. The Lab conducts important research for our industry and Montana’s barley growers and maltsters, breeding new barley varieties and testing malt and barley aspects to help inform the selection of barley for malt and malt for brewing. Researchers brew at home to complete their research, an absurd workaround that would no longer be necessary under HB 31.
January 12: Approved by the House Business and Labor Committee 19-0
January 19: Passed the House 89-10
February 9: Passed the Senate 45-5
Collaboration Beers – SB 312, sponsored by Sen. Vermiere (R-Anaconda), allows breweries to serve beers they brewed off-site in collaboration with another brewery to be brought back and served in their sample room. Collaboration beers offer opportunities for breweries to learn from each other and strengthen relationships among industry peers. Beer lovers also tend to appreciate them because they are unique, special releases that brewers have fun with and get innovative. Current law requires that all beer served in a sample room be produced on-site creates an obstacle for brewers participating in these collaborations. Simply, the visiting brewery spends on staff time and travel with no ability to recoup those expenses by selling some of the beer.
February 16: Approved by Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee 10-0
February 22: Passed the Senate 48-2
Last year, Montana brewers came together to brew our second annual collaboration beer, the Last Best Pale Ale. The MBA collab beer was born out of a need to revitalize our fundraising efforts and bring brewers, maltsters, hop growers and craft beer lovers together. To celebrate American Craft Beer Week (May 15-21) in 2023, breweries across Montana will be releasing the 2023 collaboration beer, “Peaks to Prairie IPA.”
A portion of all Peaks to Prairie IPA purchases is donated to the brewers state guild to ensure the MBA can continue to advocate for the interests of our members. Each purchase supports the MBA in our efforts to promote Montana hand-crafted beers and serve as active representatives of the Montana brewing community.
“A collaboration like this, with so many breweries coming together for a common cause, defines craft beer’s cooperative spirit and sense of community. And the money we raise helps protect, maintain, and improve the brewing industry in Montana, ” says Doug Child, Head Brewer at MAP Brewing Co.
While raising money for the brewers state guild, our collaboration beers have also been a way to raise money for scholarships for students in MSU’s Barley, Malt and Brewing Lab program. The MBA used revenue from the 2022 Last Best Pale Ale to make a donation of $1,000 to MSU to support student researchers. In 2023, we hope to raise even more funding to train the next generation of barley, malt, and brewing scientists.
Fourteen breweries participated in 2022, and we expect even greater participation this year. Montana brewers will team up with Montana producers to create a 100% Montana-made beer in celebration of craft in our state.
So far, nine breweries including Bitter Root Brewing, Blackfoot River Brewing Company, Burnt Tree Brewing, Highlander Beer, KettleHouse Brewing Company, MAP Brewing Company, Mt Ascension Brewing, Sacred Waters Brewing Company, and Shred Monk Brewing are participating in the collaboration beer. More breweries are expected to join throughout the spring.
We’ve already brought in additional suppliers, with Glacier Hops Ranch, Bell Crossing Farms, and Ravalli Hops joining others who participated last year —Farm Power Malt, Gallatin Valley Malt, Montana Craft Malt, Malteurop, Big Sky Hops, Flathead Valley Hops, and Crooked Yard Hops.
“Collaborating with the Montana Brewers Association for the collaboration beer is something Big Sky Hops Farm looks forward to because it’s a fun event that showcases all of the amazing Montana-grown ingredients available for craft brewers. Working towards a common goal of making delicious beer while also supporting local agriculture is a great fundraiser and nothing makes a Montana craft beer lover happier than drinking a specialty beer made with exclusively Montana ingredients,” said Maddy Snipes co-owner of Big Sky Hops Farm.
To help support the MBA, Montana brewers, Montana suppliers, and brewing education, stop in at participating breweries this May to try the Peaks to Prairie IPA. Various breweries will also be selling limited edition Peaks to Prairie glassware to fundraise for the MBA.
Stay tuned for the full list of participating breweries. We are so excited to share the Peaks to Prairie IPA with you all.
We are thrilled to announce our 2023 events schedule, including three brew fests across Montana, our annual judged beer competition, and our annual Montana Brewers Conference. This three-stop tour kicks off in Bozeman, travels to Helena, and concludes in Missoula. Read on and mark your calendars for our 2023 events, we hope to see you there!
First, join us on our three stop Rendezvous brewfest tour to explore a wide variety of styles and beers and enjoy the latest Montana brewers have to offer. Share in camaraderie with brewers and as we celebrate local food, music, and Montana-made craft beer! Whether you are joining us for spring, summer, or fall, our Rendezvous brewfests are a great way to enjoy the unique beer styles of the season. All your beer samples and a collectible glass included with your ticket.
-Rendezvous Ticket Prices-
Presale: $35 VIP/$25 GA
Advance: $40 VIP/$30 GA
Day of the event: $45 VIP/ $35 GA
Spring Rendezvous Brewfest
Saturday, May 13, 2023
Haynes Pavilion, Gallatin County Fairgrounds, Bozeman
Join us for the first stop on our Rendezvous tour in Bozeman featuring folk/blues band West Dakota Stutter during VIP hour and electrified and funky music provided by Squirrel gravy during General Admission. We will also be joined by food vendors CC Gourmet, Follow Yer Nose BBQ, Mo’ Bowls, and Ms. Sippi’s Southern Cuisine for tasty local bites.
Be the first to get your tickets for the Spring Rendezvous brewfest in Bozeman and save $10 off of gate price during our limited presale event! Mark your calendars for the presale event on Monday, March 13 and keep your eyes peeled for our special, limited presale code. Regular sales begin on Friday, March 24.
For a free VIP entry and volunteer T-shirt, sign up to volunteer.
Summer Rendezvous Brewfest
Saturday, August 5, 2023
Memorial Park, Helena
Join us for some summer fun at the second stop on our Rendezvous tour in Helena. Featuring music from West Dakota Stutter and The Timber Rattlers, bringing energetic bluegrass to Memorial Park. Enjoy food from local vendors with only the best Montana craft beer!
For a free VIP entry and volunteer T-shirt, sign up to volunteer.
Fall Rendezvous Brewfest
Friday, September 29, 2023
Caras Park, Missoula
Don’t miss the final stop of our Rendezvous tour in Missoula. We’ll enjoy live music during VIP hour from North Fork Crossing, followed by the Benn and Abel Band, an acoustic americana duo. With local food trucks and awards announced for the best Montana Brewers Association beers right in the heart of downtown Missoula, be sure to join us for our last event of 2023.
For a free VIP entry and volunteer T-shirt, sign up to volunteer.
2023 Montana Brewers Conference
Wednesday, September 27 – Thursday, September 28, 2023
Holiday Inn Downtown, Missoula
We couldn’t be more excited to gather with our brewing community and industry partners for 2 days of connection, education, and fun at our annual conference.
If you have a particular session you would like to see at the conference or would like to pitch a session your organization would like to present, please fill out the 2023 Montana Brewers Conference session proposal form.
Full schedule and registration details will be announced later this year and made available at www.montanabrewersconference.com. To participate in the trade show, please see sponsorship opportunities below.
-Conference Pass Prices-
Conference Pass: $250
Each Additional Conference Pass: $200
Discounted Conference Pass for MBA Members: $200
Additional Discounted Conference Pass for Members: $150
Support Montana craft beer, network with industry leaders, and elevate your brand as an event sponsor. We’re inviting businesses and organizations to partner with us for our 2023 events with a variety of sponsorship opportunities for our three brewfests and annual conference, including a package rate to sponsor all events as a Tour Sponsor. Check out our 2023 Events Sponsorship Rate Card for details. Please contact [email protected] with any questions.
Joseph Jensen, a graduate student in the Montana State University Barley Breeding Program, always had an interest in Montana agriculture. Growing up on a cattle ranch in Lewistown, MT, Jensen decided to attend MSU to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who wanted to work to improve agriculture. Jensen is the recipient of the 2022 Montana Brewers Association collaboration beer scholarship and is already making advancements in agricultural research and sustainability.
Jensen’s current research involves understanding the genetic regulation of endosperm hydration and its impact on dormancy, malt quality, and agronomic traits. The hope is that this research will allow for improvements in the sustainability of the beer-making process by aiding in the selection of Montana-made barley varieties that are more efficient in water use during malting while also being more resistant to pre-harvest sprouting.
When asked about the importance of this research, Jensen states that “a lot of people are already doing some impressive things to improve the sustainability of the beer-making process and I see my work providing more tools for brewers to help with their environmental and economical sustainability through the materials they need to make beer.”
Jensen is also looking at the genetic regulation of metabolites in barley with hopes of finding regions in the barley genome that regulate known flavor compounds. This work has been successful in identifying regions that impact both desirable and undesirable flavors in barley and could lead to the release of lines with known flavor variations.
“The biggest support that ag research can provide to Montana agriculture is providing more tools to solve problems that are encountered in the industry. No farm, ranch, malt house, or brewery is exactly the same, and not every finding in research will help every system. Because of this, researchers and those involved in Montana agriculture need to work together to approach problems from many different angles and come up with a range of solutions best suited for specific systems,” Jensen explained.
After his studies, Joe plans to continue supporting agriculture through ag research.
Click here to read more about Jensen’s research into the genetic regulation of endosperm hydration.
Agriculture is essential to the brewing industry and the MBA is proud to do our part to support vital research as well as a new generation of scientists, like Jensen, who contribute to what makes Montana craft beer exceptional.
Montana Brewers Association
P.O. Box 8591
Missoula, MT 59807