When Montanans need a great place to grab a pint, they don’t have to go very far. The state ranks No. 2 in the nation in terms of breweries per capita.
“The simple answer is Montanans like their beer,” says Brad Simshaw, co-owner of Blackfoot River Brewing in Helena. “We’re finding now that they like good craft beer made right here in Montana, and in many cases, made in the communities where they live and work.
“Breweries want to share their passion for craft beer, not just share how great it can taste, but also the history and culture,” Simshaw says.
That community-centric philosophy is what draws people, both local and visitors, and what helps bring dollars to Montana.
Along with delicious beers using locally grown barley, breweries in the Big Sky State offer activities, including tours, beer trails and food menus, to help enhance each guests’ visit.
Daniel Iverson, public information officer at the Montana Office of Tourism, says visitors want a genuine, authentic experience.
“Cities do a great job of advertising the tourism aspects of breweries,” Iverson says.
He adds that tourism studies on out-of-state visitors conducted by the University of Montana have concluded that restaurants and bars (which include microbreweries) are the third-highest category for visitor dollars.
“In 2013, they spent $625 million in that category,” Iverson says. “That’s new money being brought to Montana, rather than money that’s circulated.”
Simshaw says at Blackfoot, they’ve done countless tours to show consumers how important good ingredients are to making a great beer, and how lucky Montana is to have quality local ingredients.