Like other states, if you want to sell beer or other alcohol in Montana, you've got to have a license - and there's a variety of them. At some point, I'll put together a list. The system is heavily regulated and represents a fascinating insight into decades of legislative wrangling. When breweries started popping up again in the 1980s, selling pints at the breweries wasn't allowed. That didn't come along until 1999 (gasp!). Here's the current text in the Montana Code (Sec. 16-3-213 (2)(b), MCA) providing for the on premise sale of pints:
A small brewery may, at one location for each brewery license, provide samples of beer that were brewed and fermented on the premises in a sample room located on the licensed premises. The samples may be provided with or without charge between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. No more than 48 ounces of malt beverage may be sold or given to each individual customer during a business day.There's a bunch of information in these three sentences. First, the beer doesn't have to be sold. It can be given away to your favorite beer bloggers (hint, hint). In any event, it can only be sold between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and there's a limit of 48 ounces per person per day. The picture accompanying this post is Kettlehouse's method of keeping track of your state mandated limit. Note that sales can only happen in a "sample room" located at the brewery. The Department of Revenue has interpreted a "sample room" to include a deck or a patio as long as it "is immediately adjacent to the brewery sample room and can only be accessed from the sample room." (42.13.601, A.R.M.) The deck or patio must also "be enclosed in such a manner as to restrict its access and view from the general public on the street or sidewalk." See, Bayern's, Glacier's and Blacksmith's patio spaces, to name a few, look that way for a reason.
Lastly, you might be wondering what a "small brewery" is. A small brewery is "a brewery that has an annual nationwide production of not less than 100 barrels or more than 10,000 barrels." (Sec. 16-3-213 (2)(a), MCA.) If you've thought it was odd that Big Sky Brewing in Missoula doesn't sell pints at the brewery, there's your answer. Whether they would like to do so or not, they can't, given their annal production of more than 10,000 barrels of beer. Which raises an interesting issue. We reward the success of our Montana grown breweries by cutting off a popular and profitable outlet for their beer.
In the next installment: Montana Beer Laws 102: Cheeseburger anyone?