The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

Op-Ed: Cheers to more good, local beers

Montana beer is a unique industry. Local breweries are dedicated customers of Montana farmers, buying locally grown raw agricultural ingredients. They brew those ingredients into a wide array of delicious, value-added, made-in-Montana products that routinely win national awards. 

Breweries have become community hubs for activities like live music and philanthropy. Many are now centerpieces of rural towns. A great example is Libby, where Cabinet Mountain Brewing is known as "Libby's living room." Some dedicate their entire brand and atmosphere to notable Montana history, such as Missoula's Great Burn Brewing paying homage to the devastating fire of 1910 and wildland firefighters, or Sheriff Henry Plummer's Outlaw Brewing in Bozeman harkening back to the vigilante days. 

How many other industries can lay claim to be being homegrown, merging agriculture, manufacturing, art, and history, while also being some of the most well recognized local community gathering places, all at the same time? Add to that the fact that local breweries make flat out good beer and it's no wonder that they produce 50 million pints a year, bring $500 million into Montana's economy annually, and make us the third largest craft brewing market per capita in the nation. 

It's great to see such a special and beloved industry celebrating after successes in the 2023 legislative session. 

Republican Senator Terry Vermeire of Anaconda passed the bipartisan Senate Bill 312 that makes it easier for different breweries to make and sell collaborative brews. 

Republican Representative Ross Fitzgerald of Power passed House Bill 31, a bipartisan piece of legislation that created academic brewers licenses. Montana State University recently shared how they're using their new academic license: it "allows researchers in MSU's Barley, Malt and Brewing Quality Lab to brew small amounts of beer as part of their research, identifying beneficial traits in new barley lines and evaluating how different varieties perform at each stage of the pipeline from field to brewery."

But the biggest cause for celebration at breweries has been House Bill 305, passed by Republican Representative Ed Buttrey of Great Falls. It allows breweries to obtain more types of alcohol licenses, expanding their hours of operation. Matt Leow, the executive director of the Montana Brewers Association, called it a "huge leap forward" and the Ronan Cooperative Brewery went as far as throwing an official "New License Party" on March 1st. 

As we move into spring and summer, maybe you'll find yourself responsibly enjoying a Teddy Roosevelt American Badass IPA from Meadowlark Brewing in Sidney, a Swing Yer Tail Pale Ale from 2 Bassett Brewery in White Sulphur Springs, or a White Noise American Wheat from Überbrew in Billings. As you do, raise a pint in cheers to local agriculture, small businesses, Montana pride, and yes, even your local politicians serving in Helena, all of who have worked together to make Montana one of the best craft beer states in the nation. 

***** 

Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, is the President of the Montana Senate 

 

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