One Beer at a Time

For years, northwestern Missoula was a declining industrial district with shuttered warehouses and empty industrial areas, lacking places to drink and socialize. Then in 2011, Draught Works, a craft brewery, arrived. For Jeff Grant and Paul Marshall, the brewery’s owners, the spot was perfect. They moved into an open, industrial warehouse complete with a loading dock and commercial zoning.

Within a few short years, they turned a backwater section of Missoula into a family friendly hot spot, selling a product grown, brewed and enjoyed in Montana. It’s a success story that’s repeating itself across the state as craft breweries have continued to add to Montana’s economy.

Since 2010, craft brewing in the state has grown by 87 percent, according to “The Continuing Economic Impact of Craft Brewing in Montana,” a new report by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The industry isn’t slowing down, either. At least seven new breweries are in development across the state.

Unlike federal statistics, which group breweries into a single category, the bureau’s report, which was commissioned by the Montana Brewers Association, collected data from only Montana-based craft breweries. These data were collected via an online survey in which 61 out of 71 breweries responded. The study built on information from two previous reports completed in 2012 and 2014. They found that from 2010 to 2015, Montana craft brewing production increased by 87 percent, while sales increased by 111 percent and employment ballooned by more than 200 percent. The industry contributed around a thousand new jobs to the state and increased its population by almost 300 people.

This sector’s growth has been remarkably steady and shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, Montana brewers directly accounted for $46 million in gross sales, 702 jobs and $13.2 million in employee compensation and benefits. According to the report, a total of $17.6 million in capital investment is currently being planned for 2016 and 2017 – this is up from an estimated $9 million planned for 2014 and 2015.

All this success means a lot more beer is being produced. In 2015, Montana’s craft brewers produced over 163,000 barrels. Furthermore, the study found that each craft beer sold at a local brewery contributes $9 to Montana businesses and $2.95 in Montana resident personal income, and every 11,000 pints sold equals one new job in the state.

Brewers are also keeping it local when it comes to supply. In 2010, 38 percent of vendor purchases by breweries came from within the state. By 2015, that number grew to 58 percent, totaling $19.8 million in spending directly to Montana businesses. The state’s agricultural sector is benefiting as well. Beer needs yeast, barley, hops and sometimes fruits and honey. In 2014 and 2015 around 36 percent of these products were purchased within the state, totaling $1.4 million and $1.6 million in expenditures respectively.

Employment in Montana has also benefitted from the rise in craft brewing, adding $35.6 billion in wages, salaries and benefits to the state’s economy. And each new job in the brewing sector has an average earning of $34,111.

The new jobs created by Montana craft brewers help to attract new residents to the state or help keep existing residents here. The study found that craft brewing has increased the state’s population by 278 people. While most of these new jobs were in the manufacturing sector, which include brewing, a few other sectors were supported as well. These included construction and retail trade – industries supported by the spending of workers hired by the breweries or by vendor purchases made by the brewery.

Breweries are embodying a new and exciting era in Montana. They’re turning old industrial districts into exciting areas, kick-starting new development. They’re providing a meeting place for locals to gather and relax, which is not just good for our sense of community, it’s good for our wallets, too.