(UM Legislative News Service) — A bill moving through the Montana Legislature would allow microdistilleries to increase their alcohol production and still keep their tasting rooms.

Under current law, distilleries can’t produce more than 25,000 gallons of liquor and have a tasting room. Senate Bill 182 would change that cap to 200,000 proof gallons, which is a gallon with 50 percent alcohol.

Robin Blazer, president of the Montana Distillers Guild, supported the bill in the House Business and Labor Committee Thursday. She said the measure would help smaller distillers grow at an incremental rate.

“We would hate for Montana’s distilleries and manufacturers to be left behind in this very, very exciting time of growth,” Blazer said.

Jeff Droge owns Dry Hills Distillery near Bozeman, one of the 17 microdistilleries in the state. He said in order to expand his business, he’d have to either open another distillery or close his tasting room.

“It’s a direct loss of jobs. People rely on us on a daily basis to be able to pay their monthly rent,” Droge said.

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 43-to-7 in February.

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