Montana brewers, bars broker agreement on taproom rules

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Brewers, distributors and the Montana Tavern Association came to an agreement Thursday in the wrangling at the Legislature over how much beer each type of brewery can brew and still sell beer in their taprooms.

The agreement means House Bill 541 would be amended to again increase the beer production cap for breweries that sell beer in their taprooms from 10,000 to 60,000 barrels a year. But, it would also limit those breweries to three taprooms each, and would cap on-premise beer drinking to 2,000 barrels.

The Senate voted 42-8 Thursday to advance the bill. It still needs a final vote to pass the Senate.

Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, who voted against the amendment but for the bill, said what it really comes down to is taprooms.

“You have to know the facts of the matter. This is not about increasing production, this is about still being able to act as a bar,” Buttrey said during debate Thursday.

Jeff Grant, co-owner of Draughtworks Brewery in Missoula, says it’s a good thing for the state.

“Whether it be be beer or any product, this is a good thing for manufacturing, and manufacturing jobs in the state of Montana,” Grant said.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.