(5) (a) "Beer" means:The subsections pertaining to infusion and decoction, sugars, and caffeinated beverages weren't in the original draft of the bill. After concerns surfaced over unintentionally allowing beverages with artificially enhanced alcohol levels, brewers and other industry participants worked together to craft this language. The intent all along was to allow higher gravity traditional beers, not the so called "blackout in a can."
(i) a malt beverage containing not more than 8.75% of alcohol by volume; or
(ii) an alcoholic beverage containing not more than 14% alcohol by volume:
(A) that is made by the alcoholic fermentation of an infusion or decoction, or a combination of both, in potable brewing water, of malted cereal grain; and
(B) in which the sugars used for fermentation of the alcoholic beverage are at least 75% derived from malted cereal grain measured as a percentage of the total dry weight of the fermentable ingredients.
(b) The term does not include a caffeinated or stimulant-enhanced malt beverage.
"Sometimes people forget about how a good bill like HB400 has helped in Montana to make our brewing industry stronger and more vibrant," says Tony Herbert, Executive Director of the Montana Brewers Association. "This and even small bills like the growler bill, which clarified that taverns can fill growlers, have helped along the way, and the MBA hopes to continue to promote good legislation that helps our craft brewers at large."
Higher alcohol limits also mean a greater variety of beer styles for craft beer fans. Blackfoot River Brewing Co. in Helena has been able to make more "big" beers and to make them true to style, according to Brian Smith, co-owner and brewer. "We are now doing four to five bottle conditioned brewers reserve releases per year, whereas before we were doing only one," Brian says. "We have produced some beers for draught that go beyond the 'old' 8.75% ABV, but generally just slightly above, like our Winter Warmer (9.3% ABV)."
Brian's favorite Blackfoot River "big" beers to date include the Double Citra IPA (tank & barrel aged versions) and the Belgian Tripel that Blackfoot aged on French oak.
HB 400 also modified the State's policy on the sale of beer. Surprised we have one? We do:
16-1-102. Policy as to sale of beer. It is the policy of the state of Montana that the manufacture, transportation, distribution, sale, and possession of "beer", as that term is defined in this code, must be controlled and regulated as provided under this code. Unless defined as beer in 16-1-106(5)(a)(ii), beer, porter, ale, stout, and malt liquors containing more than 8.75% alcohol by volume and that are defined as "liquor" are subject to the regulations and controls provided for liquor.It's curious to see the statute referencing "porter," "ale," and "stout" as if those are something separate and distinct from "beer." (Don't get me started on the rules of statutory construction. That will have you snoozing in no time.) Since some version of the statute dates back to 1933, I'll chalk it up to some holdover language from days gone by. If you'd like to trace the legislative history, have at it.
Finally, in case you're wondering, a "malt beverage" is defined in § 16-1-106, MCA, as:
(15) "Malt beverage" means an alcoholic beverage made by the fermentation of an infusion or decoction, or a combination of both, in potable brewing water, of malted barley with or without hops or their parts or their products and with or without other malted cereals and with or without the addition of unmalted or prepared cereals, other carbohydrates, or products prepared from carbohydrates and with or without other wholesome products suitable for human food consumption.Gotta love the phrase "suitable for human food consumption." Mmmm . . . .
What's your favorite Montana "big" beer so far?
* The others are Montana Beer Laws 101 and Montana Beer Laws 102.
** I originally started writing this post in early 2010. What can I say. Some procrastinations are worse than others.