Montana’s messed-up alcohol laws

February 24, 2008 | admin

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts about Montana’s messed-up alcohol laws. I know I learned a lot from reading the comments and the added links. This is a big issue that isn’t going to just fade away. Breweries like Big Sky want to see changes so that they can continue to grow, so the next legislative session should prove to be interesting

Also, thanks for bearing with me during a week of taking antibiotics for a sinus infection. The inability to taste anything unless it was liquid fire combined with the beer-is-bad-for-antibiotics thing your doctor always tells you, made for less-than-normal consumption this week. In other words, I didn’t get to try very many beers, so the wordy posts helped to pass the week.

I’ll have a fresh batch of new brews to talk about this week, including John Masterson’s winning porter from the Missoula Community Brew. It’s on tap at Big Sky Brewing Co., and I’ve heard good things about it. Profits from the beer will be divided between the Zoo City Zymurgists homebrew club and this year’s charity,  Garden City Harvest, a local organization that works to provide high-quality food to low-income people, and offers education and training in ecologically conscious food production.



  1. Mike Mahns says:

    Actually, Montana law does not allow any corporation to own a license. Those chain businesses are either owned by a franchisee or the license is rented to them by a local resident, typically a lawyer.


  2. Bds says:

    I split my time between Washington and Montana, but MT has always been home. Everytime I go out to WA or OR and head into a wine tasting room or a brewery (which often have great food as well) they are hopping with business. These are very successful businesses that would thrive in Montana. As it is, I think the restaurant biz in mt is strangled by the laws and licencses currently in place. It basically supports chains that have the money to buy the licenses and puts an immediate disadvantage on those local spots that may have great food but can’t afford the license. I would like to fight the tavern association on this. Anybody interested?

  3. Your wit and sarcasm was not lost on those of us who have been through the process. ;) The RoughStock folks said it better than I could. ;)

  4. Tim Akimoff says:

    It’s definitely like Nancy says it. I was trying for wit and sarcasm, but it seems I failed miserably. Yes, the process is long and arduous, and as my friends at RoughStock say, “able to weed out those who only half-heartedly approach it.”

  5. It’s a bit more of an involved process than just a few months of paperwork. ;) In a nutshell, you deal with federal regulations, state regulations, and local regulations in order to legally sell liquor in the state of Montana. From start to finish takes about a year. Not a simple process, and not for the faint of heart. :)

  6. Tim Akimoff says:

    It’s still illegal to make moonshine individually Ty. That hasn’t changed. However, should you wish to go through the process of registering, you’d be able to produce liquor for sale with just a few months worth of paperwork, according to some of the sources I’ve spoken to.


  7. ty miller says:

    I am wanting to know what the Montana law is about an individual like me making moonshine. Any advice or Montana code would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Brad says:

    Please allow me to make a correction to my comment about the proposed rule change regarding taproom hours. ( My apologies to the readers and to the Department of Revenue). I initially interpreted the proposed change as a requirement that taprooms close at 8:00 pm. This is incorrect. The key word in the proposal is ‘consumed’. The new rule would make it illegal to consume beer after 8:00 pm.

    While this does not appear to be as drastic as a required closing time, taproom customers should nonetheless be concerned. I feel that the change will significantly impact the operation of a taproom and unnecessarily limits the time that a customer can enjoy a good beer and the good atmosphere of a taproom.

  9. Brad Simshaw says:


    An alert to you and the many readers of your blog. I learned today that the Montana Department of Revenue has scheduled a rule hearing for August 7, 2008. One of the proposed changes in rule directly impacts the way Montana breweries can do business. Specifically, the Department is proposing that brewery taprooms must close and clear their taprooms at 8:00 pm. As you know, in taprooms beer cannot be provided after 8:00 pm. Current practice in some taprooms is to quit providing beer at 8:00 pm but remain open beyond 8:00 pm (and there is no language in statute that states otherwise). As stated above, the Department of Revenue would like to require taprooms be emptied at 8:00 pm.

    Here is a link to the rule hearing notice and the proposed rule change. The rule mentioned above is 42.13.601.

    Concerned persons may submit their data, views, or arguments, either orally or in writing, at the hearing. Written data, views, or arguments may also be submitted to: Cleo Anderson, Department of Revenue, Director’s Office, P.O. Box 7701, Helena, Montana 59604-7701; telephone (406) 444-5828; fax (406) 444-3696; or e-mail and must be received no later than August 15, 2008.


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