LC1429 / HB616 Activism

Montana’s Breweries Need Your Help!


mtbrewerymapThis page is designed to provide information to the public and Montana breweries regarding LC1429, now known as House Bill 616, a current legislative amendment that threatens breweries as we know and love them.

As of 04/3/2013, this bill has been tabled at the request of the original sponsor.  It is effectively dead for this legislative session.  Thank you to all who responded to the calls for action!

It looks like HJ18 will be passed out of the committee.

You can also view the video of the committee hearing on 3/26/2013 here.

As you read this page, the Montana Legislature is reviewing LC1429/HB616.  This proposed law will change the face of Montana’s breweries as we know them.  Even worse, it has the potential to force breweries to close their tap rooms or worse yet, close entirely.  It is essential that we, the people, oppose this bill in every way we can.

As information becomes available and/or further action is required, this page will be updated.

What Do I Need To Do?

This section will be updated with the necessary steps, as they become apparent.

  1. TELEPHONE:  Call (406) 444-4800 between 7:30AM and 5:00PM, Monday through Friday.  Tell the person that answers that phone that you want the House Business and Labor Committee to OPPOSE HB616.
  2. ONLINE:  Visit this webpage and fill out your basic contact information.  Select the radio button for “Committee” and then select the “House Business and Labor” committee.  Insure that the “Bill number” reference is HB616 and the option for “AGAINST” is selected.  Optionally, you may write a personalized message to the committee of why you oppose HB616.
  3. TAKE ACTION:  Print these business cards out (Word / PDF) and hand them out to your friends and/or fellow brewery enthusiasts
  4. STAY ON IT:  This bill has the potential to pass through several stages, and it’s important that you take action depending on it’s stage.  Currently, this bill is in the first stage, a committee review, where it will go before specific legislators that will deem whether this bill will survive further votes.  Should it pass, the next stage will be to go before the entire House of Representatives and we must mount a state-wide defensive effort.  Should it survive the House, it will then move to the Senate and then we must mount yet another state-wide defensive strategy.  Lastly, should it survive the Senate, it will go before the Governor and we have yet another opportunity to appeal our desires.  With each stage, it becomes progressively more difficult to influence the parties involved.  The point is that your efforts may be called upon more than once and it’s important for you to respond to those calls.

Why is this bill bad for Montana?

  • This bill may threaten the very existence of many of our state’s breweries due to prohibitively expensive licensing costs.  Your tasting rooms, as we know them, may close down, be severely limited – OR WORSE – the brewery may opt to close entirely!
  • This legislation could force a brewery to temporarily or permanently close their tasting room, should they exceed the limits found within the bill.  It will force difficult choices upon Montana’s breweries where they have to focus their efforts on their local population or attempts to distribute elsewhere.
  • Currently, you can order beer from your breweries from 10AM to 8PM, and typically can enjoy your beer past 8PM.  This bill will force you out the door at 8PM, regardless of whether you’ve finished your beer!
  • The Montana craft brewing industry is responsible for almost 500 jobs across Montana and in 2011 alone, provided over $50 million in pure economic gain for the State of Montana.  This bill will reduce that growth trend, hurt jobs and reduce the overall economic gain to our state.
  • The specific mechanics of the bill forces breweries that are at a non-competitive level to takes severe risks with their business, either through prohibitively expensive licensing costs or potentially unsuccessful distribution efforts that directly affect their tasting room’s ability to serve you beer.
  • HB616 will harm jobs and in-State income.  Not only will our servers be affected, but so will our primary grain agricultural industry, our plumbers, our electricians and countless other industries the craft brewing industry directly supports.
  • The bill will negatively affect small-town breweries, forcing them to invest in prohibitively expensive bottling or distribution endeavors that could potentially be unsuccessful.  This puts the brewery in a difficult situation, where they would be unable to grow their business to more sustainable levels.
  • This bill could force breweries to limit their offerings to YOU, the consumers of these great products.  You will have less beer to choose from and the entire beer scene could change entirely, further limiting your options.
  • Further limiting local breweries with HB616 will allow out-of-State breweries to sweep up our market shares, hurting our economy and sending our dollars out-of-State.
  • This bill will force breweries of a certain size to obtain prohibitively expensive licensing in many areas across Montana, forcing difficult decisions and investments that the brewery may be unable to make.
  • Montana’s taverns fail to recognize that the attitudes and preferences of Montana’s modern drinkers have changed and they have immense opportunity to compete for our dollars, under the current law, by catering to our needs.
  • This bill will receive little or no input from Montana’s voters.  You will not vote on this matter, your only choice is to make your voice heard by our representatives.

Committee Hearing:

Tuesday, March 26th at 8AM, there was a committee hearing held on this legislation, as well as HJ18 (see below).  The video of this committee hearing can be found here.


The Counter-Attack:

Are you surprised by the means by which our liquor licenses are issued and enforced?  Are you tired of the entire thing being the end result of a battle between Montana’s Taverns & Montana’s Breweries?  Do you support a common sense, thoroughly researched means of coming up with an appropriate solution?

The Montana Brewers Association has introduced HJ18, which will create an interim committee study to analyze our existing liquor licensing structure and potentially come up with good, mutually beneficial means of coming to a “pro-Montana” approach of liquor licensing.  This bill NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT.

Please contact Montana’s Business & Labor Committee, using the same means as detailed above, and ask them to SUPPORT HJ18!

For more information about this effort, please read this link.

HB616 – The Real Information:

The actual text of HB616 is available online for your reading.  Forewarning, it is deeply written in “legalese,” which can be difficult for some to interpret.

More Information About HB616/LC1429:

For more information and commentary about LC1429/HB616, please visit the following online resources.

Community Responses:

News Sources:

Letters To The Editor/OpEd:


What Else Can I Do?

If you want to do more, there are a few key things that you should do to support current and future legislative efforts.

  • Print these business cards out (Word / PDF) and hand them out to your friends and/or fellow brewery enthusiasts
  • Spread the word on your Facebook or Twitter and encourage other beer enthusiasts to take action NOW!
  • Become friends on Facebook with all your local breweries for current information on the scene
  • Contact your local brewery and encourage them to be politically involved
  • Visit this page for updates on the legislative efforts and more information as it becomes available

Brewery Activism:

On 3/24/2013, I sent a letter to all our Montana breweries, asking that they band together and reject HB616 and all it’s iterations.  I continue to encourage you at this time to rally all the support we can get, talking with both your local brewery and other customers about HB616.  There’s a chance that this bill will go beyond committee and we’ll have to mount a state-wide defense, in which case, we’ll need brewery supporters across Montana attempting to influence each and every State Representative in the House, and potentially the Senate.

For the bold breweries that are standing up to hold their industry’s interests above their own, I will publish their responses:

Bowser Brewing (Great Falls, MT)

“The people of Montana want a friendly, bright, relaxing atmosphere where they can get a beer brewed with local ingredients. That is what I believe the future is for drinkers in Montana. If you feel the same way, don’t wait to act, call your local legislator today and let them know how you feel.”

Draught Works Brewery (Missoula, MT)

“Draught Works will be in Helena for the hearing on Tuesday in full opposition of HB616.  We absolutely do not support this bill as we fully support the craft brewing industry of Montana.”

Desert Mountain Brewing & Draughthaus (Columbia Falls, MT):

“Don’t worry, we’re testifying on Tuesday morning AGAINST HB616.”

Bridger Brewing (Bozeman, MT)

“Thank you for your continued advocacy on behalf of Montana’s breweries. We’ll be supporting the MBA’s recommendations on this legislation.”

Glacier Brewing (Polson, MT):

Glacier Brewing linked back to this very page from their Facebook account and impassioned their customer base to take political action.  ‘Nuff said.

Known Breweries Against HB616:

The following is a list of breweries within the State of Montana that have taken a firm, public stance against HB616 and all it’s iterations.  If you own a brewery and want to be on this list, please comment on this post, send me an email or better yet, post your stance to your Facebook.  I will also accept notices from the public that indicate a brewery is  opposed to this legislation, but I need something (a link, a Facebook post, etc) that goes beyond just your word.  I am currently monitoring all breweries for their public stance on this legislation.

If you don’t see your local brewery on this list, we need to encourage them personally to take a public stance and align with all their fellow breweries across the state!  This list will be updated as breweries come to their own decisions about this legislation.

Bowser Brewing (Great Falls, MT)
Draught Works (Missoula, MT)
Desert Mountain Brewing & Draughthaus (Columbia Falls, MT)
Harvest Moon Brewing (Belt, MT)
Tamarack Brewing (Lakeside, MT)
Glacier Brewing (Polson, MT)
Red Lodge Ales (Red Lodge, MT)
Flathead Lake Brewing Company (Bigfork, MT)
Uberbrew (Billings, MT)
Bridger Brewing (Bozeman, MT)
Fat Jack’s Taproom (Laurel, MT)
Carter’s Brewing (Billings, MT)
Bitteroot Brewing (Hamilton, MT)
Lewis & Clark Brewing (Helena, MT)
Wildwood Brewing (Stevensville, MT)
Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company (Billings, MT)
Missouri Breaks / DocZ’s (Wolf Point, MT)
Phillipsburg Brewing (Phillipsburb, MT)