Makes you wonder if Montana is next.
Silly, old, antiquated laws like the one that apparently did in Oregon’s homebrewers recently are a waste of time and money. Read all about it in this AP report.
The inclusion of prohibition-era laws in our modern world is a travesty that will cost states like Oregon and Montana potentially millions of dollars in revenue, and yet liquor laws are only now starting to be reviewed and rewritten.
If a state looked at its bottom line and realized what role craft brewers, many of whom got their start as homebrewers, play in the economic well being of said state, they’d instantly reform the laws and wipe away the antiquated alcohol laws that penalize businesses and keep hobbyists from practicing their art. Most state leaders are only now waking up to the realization that craft beer, wineries and micro distilleries are a potential windfall for them. And yet it’s a complete nightmare to navigate the current system.
Look at these Oregon statistics from the Editor’s Note in the most recent edition of Portland Monthly Magazine:
“According to industry sources, craft brewing contributed an estimated $2.33 billion to Oregon’s economy; winemaking a mere $1.4 billion.”
Okay, so it’s not a fair comparison to Montana, but we have, or did at last look, the most breweries per capita of any state in the union, and we tend to consume craft beer a little more than anyone else in the country. So there is no reason the Montana craft breweries couldn’t contribute a significant amount of cash to Montana’s coffers. Except those antiquated, prohibition-era laws that continue to plague the industry to this day.
Can you imagine of Jurgen Knoller, founder of Bayern Brewery, could produce more than 10,000 barrels a year and keep his tap room? The tax revenue for the state would be huge. Same goes for Tim O’Leary at Kettlehouse. What if Big Sky Brewing Company could have an actual tap room and continue to send great Montana beer across the nation? A boon for this state for sure. But we continue to be influenced by an old Tavern Owner’s Association lobby that utilizes old and antiquated laws to keep the brewers under their thumb.
Wake up Montana, it’s time to taste the goodness of craft beer in the can, the bottle, the growler and in our state pocket book.
One might be tempted to think that the profit for a craft brewer in a pint of beer would allow them to live luxurious lifestyles where they can hire as many people as they want and travel to exotic locations to make wonderful beer with other brewers. Watch any of Stone Brewing Company’s videos, and you’d definitely be tempted to think that. However, you’d be wrong. Most small brewers work exceedingly hard to make ends meet to hire local staff, to train them and to grow at whatever pace they can sustain. Most brewer/owners I know work long days and longer nights to bring craft beer to a community. for most, it’s a labor of love.
New legislation has been introduce by Senators John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) that would lower the federal excise tax for small brewers. This would allow them produce more beer with a better profit margin that could potentially allow them to reinvest in their equipment, staff and community. More profit equals more money back to the community in the form of employee wages and other factors.
In a press release, Sen. John Kerry said: ”Small and independent brewers are vital small businesses,” and went on to say, “relieving their tax burden will help them keep hiring and expanding.”
This rings true especially in a place like Montana where breweries like Flathead Lake Brewing Company in Big Fork and Quarry Brewing Company in Butte operate in small or remote towns with only the sweat of their brows and the good will of the citizens to rely on.
S3339, as the bill is called, would not limit the excise tax for all brewers, and so it wouldn’t dry up the money from social programs and alcohol treatment programs funded through those taxes. It would create better economic conditions for America’s hard-working brewery owners, who in my experience, tend to give a lot back to the community in various ways.
I’ve always wanted to sit down and have a pint with the governor. I hear he serves Montana craft beer up at the Governor’s Mansion for guests, which is a good thing. And I would love to see him support the industry with some much-needed law reforms. But for now, I’d just like to sit down with him and ask him about why he likes Montana craft beer and which one he likes best. Since Jag can’t drink beer, I’ll have to limit my jokes to the governor’s bolo tie.
In all seriousness though, there might be a great opportunity to chat beer with the governor coming up at Blackfoot River Brewing Company:
Join us for a slice of pizza and a cold pint of beer and show your support for the Montana Brewers Association. As the first day of American Craft Beer week it is the perfect time to support craft beer makers that bring us all such pleasure. Come down and sign the Craft Beer Declaration of Independence, take a brewery tour (every 1/2 hour from 5 to 8), to toast with the Governor who intends to be there.
Come on out and celebrate American Craft Beer Week and make sure the governor knows how you feel about the current state of the liquor laws that affect the craft breweries in your home town. Or just drink a beer with him and talk politics. Either way, Blackfoot River Brewing Company would be a great place to spend the first evening of American Craft Beer Week.
Tomorrow is the day. Montanans will legally be able to purchase beer up to 14 percent alcohol by volume. Now, the question remains: Who is bringin’ the big beers? The folks at Bitteroot Brewing answered first, so here’s what’s coming up on tap Up The Root.
With the passing of house bill 400, which goes into effect tomorrow, October 1st, Montana breweries will now be able to serve beer up to 14% ABV. Our first BIG beer will be on tap VERY soon: collaBEERation Baltic Porter:
A strong Baltic Porter brewed with organic specialty grains and hops.
Unfiltered and aged in freshly emptied bourbon barrels for 69 days.
About 9% ABV….
The next BIG beer we will offer, which recently spent the morning in the kettle is our 1000th brew, we’re calling it the power of 10 IPA:
Brew number 1000, or “the power of 10 IPA” :
An Imperial IPA, this is brew #1000 since the start of Bitter Root
Brewing 11 years ago. 100 IBU’s, 10% ABV, dry hopped with 1 pound per
barrel of hops. A unfiltered, very hoppy, very bitter beer brewed with
over 3.5 pounds of hops per barrel.
Most people didn’t outright celebrate the passage of HB 400 this past summer. After all, October 1 was a long way off. But here we are on the cusp of one of the biggest changes in Montana beer law in more than 80 years.
On Oct. 1, Montana brewers will be allowed to sell beer that is up to 14 percent alcohol by volume.
Why would you need a beer so big, you might ask? Simply put, because you can.
I’ve heard many brewers have a little something special sitting around for the occasion. What I’d like to know is what is it, and what’s the ABV?
Brewers, share your high-octane beer stories here. And we’ll see you at the brewery.
Many people write me in support of craft breweries. They want to contact a state senator or representative about the oppressive brewery laws here in Montana. And while contacting your various politicians might make you feel good, it’s but a drop-in-the-old-pint-glass compared to some other options.
And here’s one I think you’re going to like from Jason Goeltz at Bitteroot Brewing:
Join the Brew Crew! Support the Montana brewing industry, become an individual lifetime member and get a free beer at 16 participating Montana breweries…for $25! When you become a lifetime individual member of the Montana Brewers Association you will be the proud holder of the new Brew Crew card, which you may present to…hopefully all, of the 16 participating breweries for a free beer. You can sign up at the brewery and get your card immediately, or you can visit: http://www.montanabrewers.org/default.asp to learn more about the organization and become a member online.
Sorry for the delay in letting you all know that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer signed HB 400 into law on April 9. That means that on October 1, Montana will join other states without ridiculously low ABV limits on beer.
Some brewers, like Kettlehouse Brewing Co. in Missoula, are already brewing up their batches of big beer to celebrate HB400.
“We brewed a big one last week,” Tim O’Leary of Kettlehouse said. “Mixed some Belgian abbey yeast with our house yeast. It’s dark and chewy, and we’ll probably dry hop it or bourbon barrel age it.”
For the passage of HB400, we must offer our thanks and raise a glass of ale, or a strong lager if you prefer, in honor of the 2009 Montana State Legislature. But, in all fairness, we should probably break out that rare and precious bottle of aged beer that resides in the dark recesses of our outdoor refrigerators and toast to Debbie Kottel of the House of Representatives and John Bruggeman of the Senate. For without their diligent shepherding, HB400 might have gone the way of other progressive alcohol laws in this state that actually are good for the economy and the state’s growing tourism industry, but I digress.
So, send those lawmakers a note: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
And get ready for some excellent beer.
For all of you high-gravity beer lovers out there, there is news about HB400 as it collects dust before a probable early March hearing and then an appearance in the senate.
Brian Smith, of Blackfoot River Brewing Co., has some intimate knowledge of legislative activities from years of working in the leg. Who better to explain the situation.
From a comment left by Brian:
HB400 has passed the Montana House on a 80-20 vote and has been referred to committee in the Senate. It will probably come up for the hearing sometime in the first or second week of March.
The amendment that Don referred to was negotiated by the Department of Revenue and the Montana Brewers Association (MBA). The amendment essentially states that in order for a beer to exceed the 8.75% ABV it must have a fermentable malt base of 75% or greater. The DOR has great concern with high alcohol, inexpensive products in 24 oz cans being marketed in C-stores. The Department was adamantly opposed to HB400 until we crafted this amendment. Essentially, the amendments means only beers that are “almost” all-malt will be able to be sold with a higher alcohol content. The 75% fermentable base was chosen to allow some traditional beer styles such as Belgian, English, & Scottish strong ales that
may use refined sugar or adjuncts such as candy sugar, brewers crystals, brown sugar, etc. as part of the fermentable base.
Please do contact legislators and ask for their support on this bill. In particular, the committee members on the Senate Business, Labor & Economic Affairs.
The MBA’s support is the primary reason this bill is going forward. Our association’s decision to increase our dues by 500% and hire an enthusiastic Executive Director/Lobbyist (Tony Herbert) has been instrumental in gaining support for this bill. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Deb Kottel (D-Great Falls) has been a real champion for this issue as well. Beer drinkers of Montana should be very proud of the job she has done – you should have heard her speech on the House floor – very inspiring!
Visit http://www.montanabrewers.org to see who the Montana craft brewers are who are committed to improving our beer loving community!
Do what he says.
This just in from Bjorn Nabozney at Big Sky Brewing Co.:
House Bill 400 has passed out of committee on a 14-4 vote, and will be hitting the house floor later on this week or early next week. So, we are one third of the way to being able to legally brew and sell stronger beers to our distributors and through our taproom. If any of you have friends/relatives etc. in the legislature please let them know that this is an important bill for Big Sky Brewing Company.
This bill is important for all Montana’s craft breweries. It’s time to send a message.
Get involved, make some calls. Let your legislator know how you feel.