Beer here: Montana ranks second in beer consumed per capita

State recently eclipsed 100 breweries statewide

By: - May 12, 2022 9:38 pm

Illustration by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan.

Montana, New Hampshire has you beat when it comes to beer drinking.

Sorry.

But the latest statistics from several sources show that when it comes to beer consumption per capita, Montana is second in the nation at 41.1 gallons, and New Hampshire is slightly higher with 41.5 gallons.

And Montana’s most popular beer — like many states — is Budweiser.

The data was collected and presented by Visual Capitalist.

Beer is the fifth most popular beverage for Americans, while coffee comes in at No. 1.

That doesn’t surprise many folks familiar with Montana’s brewing scene. The Treasure State often ranks in the top five in many brewing categories. Matt Leow, the executive director of the Montana Brewers Association, said that Montana’s love of suds comes from both a culture that has historically embraced the barley brew, and because Montana is one of the few states that can grow all the ingredients necessary to create beer.

“Well, historically there are people here of German, Irish and Scandinavian descent, so that probably has something to do with it,” Leow said. “But the modern craft beer movement and our lifestyle here go hand-in-hand. We work in Montana and love to work, but we live in Montana because it’s about enjoying life.”

Even though the portion of local craft brew is growing, it is still a small portion of the total amount of brew consumed, which explains Budweiser’s top ranking in Montana.

However, Montana is often in the top three for number of breweries per capita, and the state has recently eclipsed its 100th local craft brewery, which means that small breweries are in many of Montana’s smaller towns and cities.

Overall, Montana ranks 30 in total number of breweries with 105, according to the American Brewers Association. Annually, Montana produces more than 200,000 barrels of beer, and adults in the state consume nearly 8 gallons of Montana-made craft brew per person, according to the American Brewers Association.

“We’re on a first-name basis with the people who grow and brew – kind of from seed to pint,” Leow said.

And in Montana, brewing is big business. In the U.S., brewing accounts for nearly $95 billion in annual sales, and Visual Capitalist reports more than 9,000 breweries across the country.

“I have been in this position for seven years and we’ve just reached 100 breweries. I don’t know if in another seven, we’ll be at 200, but I wouldn’t bet against it either,” Leow said. “Craft brewing is just a sliver of the market and it’s continuing to grow.”

In the state, the 2019 economic impact of breweries was $498 million, which puts it at the 37th largest industry statewide.

Montana’s 2022 Champion beers

Gold

Bozeman Brewing Company (Bozeman): Plum Street Porter (Category: Robust Porter)

Philipsburg Brewing Company (Philipsburg): 5 Phantoms (Category: Pumpkin Beer)

Bronze
Bayern Brewing Company (Missoula) St. Walter Hefeweizen (Category: South German Style Hefeweizen)

Mountains Walking Brewery (Bozeman) Damsel Fly (Category: International Pale Ale)

Montana also continues to “punch above its weight” when it comes to quality, Leow explained.

Just last week, Montana breweries brought home two golds and two bronzes from the World Beer Cup. The 2022 World Beer Cup was the largest international beer competition with 10,542 entries from 2,493 brewers from 57 countries.

“We should be very, very proud of the quality of beer here,” he said.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.

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