Jessica Kane

Montana is known for its wide open spaces, extraordinary scenic spaces, and, more recently, for some really outstanding craft beers. If you are a Montana resident, you really do need to know what's happening when it comes to the craft beer industry in your state. If you're planning a trip to Montana, you will want to check out some of the sensational craft beer options that are now on the market.

History of Brewing in Montana

Beer brewing in Montana traces back to the time before statehood. In 1863, one of the first breweries was opened in the Montana Territory, by Henry Gilbert, Christian Ritcher, and William Smith. When it first opened its doors, the company was called the"Thorn-Smith Brewery, then the Virginia Brewery, and finally the Gilbert Brewery.

The Gilbert Brewery continued in operation until the Montana Prohibition laws went into effect at around 1916. Eventually, the brewery re-opened in 1934. It ultimately shuttered for ever in 1974.

 

In 1926, Montana was the first state to fully repeal Prohibition, opening the door to beer brewing yet again. As of this time, Montana is one of the top ten states when it comes to the number of craft breweries per capita. In fact, as of 2017, Montana was in second place when it comes to the number of craft breweries per capita in a state.

The Leading Craft Breweries in Montana

A few dozen craft breweries top the list as the industry leaders in the state of Montana. These include:

2 Basset Brewery

406 Brewing Company

Backslope Brewing

Beaver Creek Brewery

Big Sky Brewing Co.

Bozeman Brewing Company

Flathead Lake Brewing Company

Harvest Moon Brewing Company

Lewis and Clark Brewing Company

Meadowlark Brewing

Montana Brewing Company

Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company

Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company

In addition to these leading craft breweries in Montana, there are four notable breweries that have gone out of business. These are Anaconda, Butte, Helena, and Kalispell.

The Craft Brewing Industry in Montana Today

At the present time, there are a total of 38 craft breweries in Montana. Overall, in the United States, there are 2,768 craft breweries as of 2017. The Montana brewing industry employs 220 people directly. In addition, over 4,700 individuals are employed in associated occupations, including wholesaling and retailing.

The craft brewing industry in Montana comes in a nuber of different derivations. These include breweries and brewpubs. In the beer brewing industry more generally, breweries generally are categorized as being nanobreweries, microbreweries, and massive multinational conglomerate macrobreweries.

In recent years, in some parts of the United States, some of the larger macrobreweries have started to purchase microbreweries. Thus far, the Montana industry has managed to remain largely independent and has avoided seeing its unique microbreweries and brewpubs being snatched up by beer conglomerates. With that said, as Montana beer continues to garner more attention, odds are that one or another, or even several, of the brewing operations in the state will become the acquisition targets of large brewing companies.

Qualifying as a Small Brewery in Montana

Montane state law has defined a small brewery as being "a brewery that has an annual nationwide production of not less than 100 barrels or more than 10,000 barrels." A small brewery in Montana is permitted to provide samples of its product between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. daily.

Montana Brewer's Association

Founded in 2008, the Montana Brewer's Association was established to promote the production and sales of the highest quality Montana-made beers. The Montana Brewer's Association strives to have a direct and positive impact on the state of Montana and its residents. The Montana Brewer's Association has been a leader when it comes to advocating for such things as equal employment opportunities as well as paying a living wage to beer industry workers.

According to statistics maintained by the Montana Brewer's Association, brewers in the state produce 140,000 barrels annually. This equates to 4,340,000 gallons of beer per year.

At the present time, Montana breweries see their product being sold in over 5,000 retailers. Montana beers can be found for sale in 24 states as of 2017. The number of states in which Montana beer can be found is on an upward trajectory.

Many Montana craft breweries and pub breweries have become major tourist attractions. A growing number of visitors to the state include a visit to at least one craft brewery on their itineraries while in Montana. The trend associated with tourists visiting Montana craft breweries is also expected to continue to increase in coming years.

Jessica Kane writes for TIPS Alcohol Training, offering TIPS responsible alcohol service training online for both on and off premise needs.