Montana breweries are producing some amazing craft beer and should be part of any beer lover’s vacation to the state.
Montana Breweries & Beer Statistics
State by state statistics from the Brewers Association, the national association representing the craft beer industry (of which we are members), reveal:
- Montana has 92 craft breweries, some of which are only in planning
- This number elevates Montana to 3rd in the United States in breweries per capita
- Montana breweries produced 218,547 barrels of beer in 2019, which averages to only 2,375 barrels per brewery
- Big Sky Brewing in Missoula and Kettlehouse Brewing Company in Bonner are the only Montana breweries listed as “regional” breweries, meaning they produce at least 15,000 barrels per year; the rest are listed as a microbrewery, contract brewery, taproom, or brewpub
With Big Sky Brewing making an estimated 40,000 barrels per year and Kettlehouse having a 30,000-barrel brewing facility, that means all the rest of Montana’s breweries on average produce 1,650 barrels per year. In short, Montana’s craft beer scene is full of small, local players spread throughout the state.
Montana Breweries to Visit
You can’t visit all Montana breweries on one visit. The state is just too large. You need a plan.
- Larger Cities: Big Sky Brewing based in Missoula and Kettlehouse based in Bonner, just 12 miles to the west and with a taproom in Missoula, make for obvious stops. The city has almost a dozen breweries total. Bozeman, the other major university town, has another dozen and is well worth a visit too.
- Medal Winners: Four Montana breweries won a total of six medals at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival. This includes double winners MAP Brewing Co. in Bozeman and Meadlowlark Brewing in Sidney – just a moderate 7+ hour drive to the east! Überbrew in Billings and Bridger Brewing in Bozeman also brought home gold medals.
- Most Popular: Untappd lists 42 breweries for the search term “Montana”. The most popular by user ratings is again MAP Brewing (3.87). BeerAdvocate.com users rate individual beers; Big Sky Brewing has four beers in the top 20 and Lewis & Clark Brewing in Helena has three.
- Drink Local: Our favorite way to visit Montana craft breweries, however, is simply to do what we love to do in Montana – hike, bike, snowshoe, and otherwise play outside – and visit whatever brewery is nearby when we are done. You can find breweries from this map from the Montana Brewers Association, although be aware they do not include all breweries as members.
Taproom Laws in Montana
You should be aware of several important Montana laws that affect beer lovers.
Most importantly, taprooms are limited to serving customers 48 ounces of beer and need to close at 9:00 PM, with last call at 8:00 PM. 48 ounces of beer should really not be an issue, as it equals three 16-ounce pints or four 12-ounce servings. This law ensures brewery taprooms are there for those who are lovers of the craft, rather than those just looking to get drunk. But the early close can put a crimp in a post-dinner visit plan!
Montana Craft Beer – Part of a Great Vacation
In 2019 our sister company, Zephyr Conferences, organized its Beer Now Conference for beer writers in Great Falls, Montana. Attendees Jeff and Chris at Bottle Makes Three wrote of their experience tasting Montana beers:
“We brought back from our trip a love for Montana and a much deeper appreciation of Montana craft beer. Montana brewers are making some really creative, surprising, and truly world-class beers. “Bottle Makes Three
If you are interested to explore Montana’s craft breweries while staying active on vacation, consider booking our Yellowstone Active Beer Vacation.