Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Went to the Capital....

I spent this past President's Day weekend with my family, touring around our great state's Capital. This is something I deeply recommend for anyone in Montana, regardless of your political affiliation. This gave my wife and I a wonderful opportunity to show our kids, first hand, how and where the state's laws are crafted. I wanted them to come away with the understanding that making laws, like making beer and root beer, isn't an automatic thing. It takes effort, time, resources, and it takes a passionate person behind it; a maniac-on-a-mission!
We got the opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the Senate, bask in the regimental meeting structure, and hear opening debate on a bill; this one was about repealing the death penalty. While the meat of the debate was very deep and serious, the process was truly amazing to witness. The speed at which these bill votes were made was dizzying. Compton rappers have got nothing on the people running these meetings!
My interest in our state's law-making process is, admittedly, selfish in origin. I have been following the evolution of HB 400, increasing the legal amount of alcohol in Montana-made beer. I listened to the sponsor "make her case" before the House of Representatives, I heard the bill's opponents make (what I thought) were unrelated and arbitrary arguments, I got to see some humor and humanity from other House members. Truly fascinating. This bill is headed for the Senate, hopefully it'll receive positive votes there as well.

Anytime I go to Helena, I have to make a stop and pay homage at the historical Kessler Brewery (now a food distribution company). This brewery is located in west Helena and, directly adjacent to the brewery, is the Kessler family home. Unfortunately, this wonderful landmark is in very bad shape having had numerous episodes of vandalism and a fire on the top floor. Nonetheless, it is truly a thing of beauty. There is a big part of me that wants to buy this tarnished building, dump in my life's savings ($23.42) and refurbished it to it's original grandeur. I could see myself and my family living very happily in Helena. Only problem is that Helena-to-Polson commute would be a killer!
Not many are aware of the fact that Nicolas Kessler also ran a very successful brick factory. The Kessler bricks are present throughout Helena, I found quite a few in the pavement of the walking mall of downtown Helena, Last Chance Gulch. These bricks are quite large by today's standards. They are also blond in color and have a neat cross-hatch pattern on them. If you're quite lucky, you might find a smaller, red brick with the initials "N.K." in raised relief on the face. Literally a piece of history in your hand!
Helena, city of many faces and times. It's always good to get out of Dodge for a day or two, gets my creative juices going.
Until next time,
your humble brewer

Friday, February 13, 2009


The higher-alcohol beer bill cleared another hurdle today: passing it's third reading before the House with a vote of 80-20.

Is anybody else singing to themselves "oh I'm just a bill and I'm sitting here on Capital Hill...."?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

HB 400 Passes Second Reading!!!

Just moments ago, beer lover, Montana House Bill 400 passed (83-17) it's second reading before the Montana Legislature!
HB 400 is schedule for it's THIRD reading tomorrow, February 13.



House Bill 400

Well, blogites. Montana House Bill 400 is waiting in the wings at the State Legislature. I've been listening to and watching our legislators hear testimony all morning about workman's comp laws, firefighter hire age requirements, interesting bickering and some lame attempts at humor (mostly mine). The higher alcohol bill, HB 400, passed out of committee on February 10 with 14 votes for it and four against. So far, it's looking fairly strong. I'm not certain how many Montana brews overall will take full advantage of this law change but I do know that probably every brewery in Montana, including good ole' GBC, will make at least one brew that will reach the new alcohol limit. These brews would cost more to make therefore they will cost more to buy, but well worth it, methinks.

It's been exciting for me to watch the counter continue to climb on our new Point Of Sales download page (click here). I do wonder who is going there: is it curious consumers, salesman downloading imagery to give to accounts (I HOPE!), or what?

Well, we have a new specialty beer on tap in the tasting room; our Dunkel Hefeweizen is back! You remember this fantastic beer from last year and the year before that. Funny how I'm seeing other Montana breweries brewing these oddball styles only after we've been doing them for awhile. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then thank you. This wheat beer is dark in color, unfiltered, and made with a wonderful hefeweizen yeast we have imported from Germany. My source tells me this particular strain of yeast has been keep alive since the 1600's! Good stuff. Get in here before it gone!

I'll keep you update on HB 400.

Until next time,
your humble brewer

Monday, February 2, 2009

Montana Beer Law Evolution.....

By now you may have heard about the latest effort to evolve the Montana brewery laws. There is a movement underway to change the state's definition of beer, House Bill 400 (click here to read it).

According to Montana Code 16-1-106, (5) "'Beer' means a malt beverage containing not more than 7% of alcohol by weight." The bill is attempting to redefine beer as a malt beverage containing not more than 14% alcohol by volume, this translates to 11.05% alcohol by weight. Now to fully understand this, understand that there are two scales to measure alcohol in beer: alcohol by weight and alcohol by volume. The state limit of 7% alcohol by weight translates to 8.869% alcohol by volume. Potatoes, Potahtoes. Same amount of alcohol in both readings.

There are very few states in our fine country that have such restrictive language on their books regarding how much alcohol can be present in beer. Unfortunately, Montana is one of those states. There is a true desire from the purchasing public to have the legal opportunity to sample and purchase Montana-Made beers that, by their vary style designation, contain alcohol greater than 7% by weight. Brewer's across the state, also, have a deep desire to produce these rarefied brews. But make no mistake, these high-gravity beer styles are not about "getting drunker, quicker". There are plenty of products on the market already to fill that post-adolescent niche. These style are to be savored, enjoyed slowly. Most require they achieve room temperature to release all of their aromatic qualities.

This "7%" law was put on the books several decades ago and seven percent is said to have been a fairly arbitrary limit. There does not seem to be much resistance to this alteration from any one group. That, in and of itself, is a rarity whenever you talk about changing any alcohol law or rule in Montana. The brewer's are for it, MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving) states they have no problem with the bill ("As long as the packaging notes that the person is getting in effect, two standard drinks". Missoulian, Sunday Feb 1, 2009). Even the Montana Tavern Association seems to not oppose it, but they don't support it either.

Gold-Medal winning If, in fact, this does go through and becomes law, it will give me a chance to brew some of these recipes I have in my recipe book that I haven't done in quite awhile. Including my GABF,Maibock! Oh Baby! Or maybe a doppelbock or Eisenbock or even a Barley Wine!! These types of beer would be a very special brew, one we wouldn't be producing very often, or in very large quantities primarily because of the costs involved. But it would be refreshing to have the opportunity to produce them and be able to compete on a level playing field against the out-of-state breweries that can make these beers.

As always with these types of things, CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT HB400!
Let's evolve our brewery laws.

Until next time,
Your Humble Brewer