Beer Brings Jobs to Montana and Great Microbreweries to Its Citizens


If our country was termed the United States of Beer, Montana would rightly be its capital.

In a recent report from The Daily Beast, the online home for Newsweek Magazine, Montana was highlighted (if not praised) for its many beer-related accomplishments. And one that stood out above all others was the fact that Montana employs more brewers per capita than any other state – 3.2 brewers per 100,000 residents.

Of course, it’s unknown if The Daily Beast’s report included Missoula’s 28th brewery, Draught Works Brewery, which opened a week ago, but add to that the fact that the state’s 29th brewery is slated to open its doors in Great Falls soon. So we’re only about four breweries away from being the number one state in the country for breweries per capita (currently, Vermont has that honor). Montana may get there sooner than we think, too, as according to there are a couple of planned breweries in progress: One in Lewistown (Lewistown Brewing) and one in Stevensville (Wildwood Brewing, Inc.).

At one time, Montana also led the nation in beer drinking, but we (perhaps sensibly) gave that title up to New Hampshire, which boasts 32.7 gallons consumed per person annually. Montanans consume a mere 30.5 gallons of tasty, delicious craft beer per person per year, or just fewer than four pony kegs per person for those using a different method of calculation. For the record, it seems that while Montanans drink, on average, more beer than bottled water (28.3 gallons per person) each year, Americans, by and large, still drink a lot more soft drinks (44.7 gallons per person) than beer.

So what keeps Montana’s brewers busy year-round? If you look at the Montana Brewers Association’s website, you’ll see that our breweries manufacture and produce over 2.3 million gallons of craft beer every year using more than 5.6 million pounds of malted grain, half of which is grown right here in the state.

Montana breweries generate and pay taxes on approximately $20 million of revenue, in addition to local and Montana taxes for personal property, real estate, and the state’s beer tax. And, an interesting fact that adds to how beer brings jobs to Montana, breweries also employ staff from over 50 different trade companies, including plumbers, electricians, refrigeration specialists, general contractors, and, of course, truck drivers and distributors.

Montana’s breweries have a lot to show for their efforts. Yes, there are the pints of amazing beer you can order at their taprooms or your favorite restaurant, but I’m talking about medals. In early October at the 30th Annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, three Montana breweries landed medals for their brews:

  • Carter’s Brewing in Billings won a Silver medal in the American-Style Black Ale Category for its Blackened CDA.
  • Kettlehouse Brewing Company in Missoula won a Bronze medal in the Gluten-Free Beer category for its Seeley Axe White beer.
  • Montana Brewing Company in Billings won a Silver Medal in the Baltic-Style Porter category for its White Eagle Baltic Porter.

Montana’s breweries competed in a pool of 526 total breweries representing 48 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. To congratulate the winning breweries, Sen. Max Baucus, who co-chairs the Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus, issued the following statement: “These highly coveted awards show Montana’s small brewers mean business. I applaud Carter’s, Kettlehouse, and Montana Brewing Company for representing our state so well at this national competition. Montana’s small brewers support good-paying jobs and these awards will help draw even more attention to this important business in our state.”

All I can add is that it’s good to be a Montanan who likes to drink good beer.

Tell me, do you know anyone who works for or with a Montana brewery? Share your connections below.


Like this Drink It blog?  Chances are you’ll like these blogs by Missoula’s Drink It expert, Ryan Newhouse:  Be a Winner-Brew at HomeHave Beer Will Travel,  Flathead Lake Brewing Company – Beer Pairing,  Tamarack Brewing Company, Montana Whiskey and Vodka.  And check out our Missoula Restaurants and Dining and Missoula Nightlife sections.

Click here to see Ryan’s “Drink It” archive.


Ryan Newhouse has lived in Missoula since 2002 and has tipped his glass in most of the town’s establishments. He is a full-time writer, husband and parent (in no particular order) and a part-time zymurgist. He makes a mean hard cider and pairs his cocktails with dishes from his blog, Cooked Animals: Recipes for Wild Game.