Most of you know I’m an advocate of craft brewing. That should go without saying. And many of you know I am in favor of Montana brewers standing up for their right to brew and conduct business in a fair and reasonable manner.
What some of you may not know is that I’m actually a big fan of the way things are as regards tap rooms in their current state of being.
And I think that my view is merely a reflection of what many brewers and brewery owners already feel.
You see, I love the fact that I can take my three children to a tap room. There they are not subject to second-hand smoke, bar-room banter of the dirtiest manner or sloppy drunks.
I’ve said this before, but the fact that my children can grow up with a better image of beer and wine consumption than many in previous generations have is a wonderful thing. And nowhere, at least currently, is there a better place than right here in Montana.
Most other states don’t have tap rooms similar to ours. In fact, while many pubs and breweries are family friendly, children still must be out by 9 or 10 p.m. And most have bar areas where children are not permitted to be.
The fact of the matter is that tavern owners are frightened of a prospect that is unreasonable, that of breweries reorganizing as restaurants competing for customers. Montana’s brewers are focused on producing high-quality craft beer and giving their customers a great experience with their beers.
Very few brewers would be interested in turning their establishments into pubs complete with food and other amenities. For one thing, if you’re going to do that, you might as well become a full restaurant, which comes with a whole other set of problems.
Having worked for a large chain of brewery restaurants in Oregon, I saw how beer quality suffered because of other cost concerns related to running both endeavors. I wouldn’t want to see that happen here. That is not to say that brewery/pubs produce inferior quality beer. It simply means that production breweries, which have a specific purpose, often struggle when it comes to combining business practices of food and beer production, whereas brewpubs that focus on food and beer without the production issues produce fine quality products of their own. Just look at Tamarack Brewing Co. in Lakeside. They do not focus on production, so they are able to offer a wonderful dining and beer experience just the same as the Kettlehouse Brewing Co. is able to offer a high quality beer and tap room experience while focusing on the production and distribution of their product around Montana.
And don’t get me started on the absurdity of Montana law that keeps Big Sky Brewing Co. from being able to run a tap room because they produce a certain amount of beer. The fact of the matter is that this law applies to only one brewery in the entire region. Who every heard about a law that applies to one person? I’m sure there are examples, so don’t bother sending them to me. I just want to make the point that Montana’s alcohol laws are absurd to the point of being detrimental to the economy and well-being of our towns and cities.
The brewers and brewery owners should not be confined to a set of rules imposed to protect the rights of one group of business owners over another. This is where the tavern owners are unreasonable. By keeping their thumb on the breweries, the MTA is holding back an industry that will not only impact Montana’s economy, but breweries can ultimately help taverns that will suffer as craft beer becomes more popular with the next generation of beer consumers as well as a growing trend in women beer consumers who are not as likely to visit taverns, especially taverns with a selection of mainly domestic similar styled beers.
My point in all this is that the law created tap rooms as they are. Tap rooms are a good thing for breweries, for a healthy view alcohol by our children and for this state. No one, least of all many of the brewers and brewery owners, wants to see that changed. But holding breweries back by forcing them to shut down operations even earlier than they already do is an unfair amendment to the law proposed by the government in response to financial pressure from a long-term, outdated lobby that is hurting the state economically.
Interested in making your voice heard to our state’s government?
I guess we’ll find out this week as Missoula’s Marshall Mountain hosts the motorcycle club’s annual run.
The thing I’m curious about is whether or not craft brew falls under the bad boy image many bikers portray. Also, with Budweiser, Miller and Coors all owned by foreign interests, is it cool to drink it if you’re in an outlaw motorcycle club?
Here’s the deal. I’ve seen some Angels hanging in bars around town already, but I’d be curious to know if you end up seeing any in the tap rooms this weekend?
Let me know, would ya?
I think that kind of sums up the problem for craft breweries in Montana.
Here’s the rest of a comment I found to be right on the money:
I’m tired of this. The so-called “complaints” were not made by police but by members of the Montana Tavern Association (MTA)in an effort to further restrict competition from small brewers. Tasting rooms already have different rules than taverns so there is no reason tasting rooms can’t have different rules for closing time serving.
What is the problem that needs fixing here? There is none. Somebody tell me if they know of, or have ever heard of, a problem at a brewery tasting room that required a police call. I’d be surprised if there is even ONE. The MTA simply wants to have it both ways,stupidly thinking that if they can reduce brewery sales, they can sell you more swill.
I say, fine, if the MTA wants tasting rooms to follow the same rules, let the tr’s stay open until 2 a.m. Anything else is an unfair restriction of commerce and detrimental to the consumer.
Obviously, in-person testimony at the hearing would be most effective. But, if you (like me) can’t make it to Helena on a workday afternoon, the comment period is open until August 15. So, let’s get a stack of emails and letters en route to the DoR. Be specific and to the point. And get your beer buddies mobilized too.
Here’s the contact info:
Montana Department of Revenue
PO Box 5805
Helena, MT 59604-5805
Fax: (406) 444-3696
Well, not really. This is Monday, but it looked like the kind of party where the morning after might be a bit fuzzy. I wouldn’t know. I had three kids in tow, so I shot down to Hamilton after dinner, tried a couple of beers, listened to some good ol’ Americana music, chatted up a brewer or two and headed home.
Though I was only there for a few hours, the Bitteroot Brewfest is one of those events that just captures a community in a summertime frame of mind.
Aside from having a good many Montana beers available, there was dancing in the streets, abundant conversation and a celebratory feeling in the air.
And unlike some of the bad boys of summer brewfests, like the Oregon Brewers Festival, it didn’t take more than a few minutes to get a beer, and people genuinely tried to keep from slamming up against you and spilling your beer and theirs all over you or your kids.
And, as the saying goes, pictures are worth a few more words than I can write about this festival. See you next year Bitterroot Brewfest.
There is a bit of a brouhaha a brewin’ about a public meeting to clarify certain rules that would affect when Montana tap rooms can legally sell beer.
I contacted Shauna Helfert, the administrator for the liquor control division at the Montana Department of Revenue, today, and she explained some of the reasons behind the upcoming rules hearing.
“When legislation is drafted, by no means are they drafted with everything in mind,” Helfert said. “So that’s why administrative rules are there, they help fill in the blanks.”
The blanks in this case are the ambiguities over when breweries must stop serving alcohol. Currently the time is 8 p.m., which many brewers contend is too early and hurts their business, especially in summer when outdoors enthusiasts return too late to be served.
On the other hand, tavern owners contend that the hours are necessary to keep breweries from siphoning off potential tavern customers.
Helfert said she has no interest in helping one side control the other, her conerns are with how to enforce the rules.
“Our job is to control alcohol,” Helfert said. “From an investigator standpoint, how do you ever know (alcohol) was sold before 8 p.m. or after 8 p.m.”
She is, of course, referring to complaints from police officers who have a difficult time enforcing the law when they can’t tell whether people are being served after 8 p.m. because they still have a beer in their hand.
In order to enforce this, Helfert said she is clarifying the existing law which states that breweries must not serve alcohol after closing time. This includes consumption after closing despite being served before closing time, which means that breweries must stop serving well before 8 p.m. in order to be in compliance with the rule.
Helfert said that there have been enough complaints to her office to justify the amendment to the administrative rules, and that there are more brewers in the state now with questions about the laws that govern their operation.
“The law has matured enough,” Helfert said. “If that law is put in place today, people don’t generally question things until years down the line.”
Though Helfert said the general need for the amendment comes from many reasons, complaints have been made to her office.
“Brewers have called me concerned about this, on premise licensees and the general public,” Helfert said about the complaints. “The thing about it is that I got enough of them to do something about it.”
I asked Helfert if she could provide these complaints in written form in order to contact some of the people issuing the complaints, and she said that she does not keep records like that.
Want to comment and make your voice heard? Want to participate in the law-making process? Here’s your chance: The hearing date will be on August 7, 2008, at 1:30 p.m., in the Director’s Office (Fourth Floor) Conference Room of the Sam W. Mitchell Building, at Helena, Montana.
Be there, or lose your rights,
The hottest brewfest in America takes place this weekend.
And while it’s a popular little brewfest, I mean it’s hot because the mercury is projected to reach 96-degrees on Saturday.
The brewfest supports the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce, and features beers from around Montana as well as local and regional musical acts.
Bitterroot Valley food vendors will provide tasty Montana delicacies, there will be a street dance on Friday night and a car show on Saturday morning.
Festival goers purchase a ticket for $15, which makes them eligible for a wristband, a commemorative tasting glass and three tickets for tasting.
A variety of foods and non-alcoholic beverages make the Bitterroot Microbrew Fest a favorite attraction for area families.
The festival takes place from 3 p.m to 10 p.m. on July 26.
See you there,
The Department of Revenue is at it again. This time it’s in regards to when tap rooms must close.
There is a rules hearing scheduled for Aug. 7, to discuss several items but one that will impact breweries with tap rooms.
Here’s a peek at what the department wants to do:
REASONABLE NECESSITY: The department is proposing to amend ARM 42.13.601 to clarify the restrictions for small brewery licensees of the limitations on sale and service of brewery samples. This rule relies on historical practices and treats small brewers in the same manner as all-beverage licensees, which allows no consumption after closing time. The division has received repeated complaints from on-premises licensees about breweries remaining open after 8 p.m. These breweries reportedly sell product up to 8 p.m. and then allow customers to remain on the premises and consume whatever they have purchased before 8 p.m. The division staff has observed this practice in Billings, Montana.
More information as I get it.
I’ve always taken a multimedia approach to beer. That’s why I’m impressed with the guys at Beer Tap TV. Their show is well done, and they include notes for those of us who like to read about our beer as much as talk about it.
Oh, and they have a cool announcement on this episode.
Growler readers, meet Erik and Dusty:
A UFO has been sighted near the moon. If its approach continues to hold, the UFO should make its landing at 1507 Montana St. in Missoula, Montana on Monday, July 28.
The strange thing is that hundreds of people will be gathered at the site on Monday to celebrate the UFO’s return.
That’s right folks, Bayern Brewing’s UnFiltered Oktoberfest is making its annual return on the last Monday of July.
What makes the unfiltered Oktoberfest so unique?
It’s a keller bier, essentially a fresh lager that retains many of the nutrients and vitamins associated with the yeast that gives it a cloudy appearance before filtration. According to masterbrewer Thorsten Geuer, “It’s more refreshing and has a fuller flavor to it.”
Geuer said keller bier traditionally has been a treat for brewers after work. The unfiltered beer still in the fermenters was often the only beer available after the brewery had shut down for the evening.
The brewery traditionally releases UFO on the last Monday in July, and it normally stays on tap until the regular Oktoberfest becomes available around Labor Day.
On a side note, I’ve heard many know-it-alls say unfiltered beers are a slick marketing scheme used to get more people interested in the same old beers. In my experience, unfiltered beers, like Bayern’s pilsner, offer a unique way to taste beer, especially lagers, which are often filtered almost completely, stripping out many interesting taste componants in favor of a long shelf life. Aside from having a different taste profile, unfiltered or keller biers, stand for what we love most in America – choices.
This post ran on my old beer blog, “Will Blog for Beer.” I was excited to find it the other day, albeit in the strangest place. It has to do with outdated beer toasts, and this is the most interesting one I’ve ever seen.
Doing a search for some of my old material, I found this posted at www.caudata.org (The Newt and Salamander Portal), and I thought you all might appreciate finding out about a rubbing of the salamander. The original post no longer exists at www.statesmanjournal.com, but this is as I wrote it on “Will Blog for Beer.”
I know it sounds like a dirty question, but I found this strange term in an Illustrated History of the Salem Brewery Association, by Gary Flynn, of Bellingham, Wash. (That’s right, Salem had its own brewery for years, something we’ll talk more about later) Apparently there was a beer in Salem known as Salamander Beer, explained in an article by Stein Collectors International Master Steinologist John McGregor.
In the following, the terms used are a mix of German and Latin. The translations are how we might expect to hear them in modern English. The word “salamander,” in this case, is derived from the term “Sauft alle mit einander” (All drink together). However, the word Sauft means more than just drink; it is one of those over the top words meaning “get sloshed” or “guzzle.”
To have a Rubbing of the Salamander (“einem einen Salamander reiben”) proposed to you is evidently considered a great honor.
As the leader, or toast giver, proposes to honor a guest or special person, all stand and lift their steins at the words of the leader, “Ad exercitium salamandris praeparatiestisne?” (Are you prepared to do the salamander?) The drinkers say in unison, “Sumus” (we are). The leader further orders, “Salamandes inciptur, eins, zwei, drei,” (Begin the salamander, one, two, three) and each drinker rubs his stein on the table three times. The leader further instructs them with, “Bitte eins, zwei, drei” (Drink up, one, two, three) and all steins are emptied in unison to the count one, two, three. They are then rattled on the table till the leader once again says, “Eins, zwei…” (one, two…) and all steins are held still until the leader says,”Drei!” (three) whereupon all bang their steins on the table.
A variation of this is the “Trauersalamander.” All done as before, except the glasses are “rubbed” in the air and they are stopped before striking the table. A silent, solemn ceremony honoring a departed brother.
What I wouldn’t give for a bottle of Salamander Beer today. Well, in lieu of Salamander Beer, why don’t we have a Trauersalamander in honor of our departed Salem Brewery Association? Ad exercitium salamandris praeparatiestisne?