Lawmakers Recognize Campus Microbrewery Programs But Say Tasting Must Be Off Campus

Apr 20, 2017

Credit MSU Billings

Two Montana campuses will be allowed to have the public sample the wares from their brewing science and brewery operations programs, so long as the tasting rooms are off campus.

Flathead Valley Community College and Montana State University Billings are the two campuses with this program. But the Senate amended the bill to only recognize FVCC. Representative Don Jones, R-Billings, wanted MSU Billings to be recognized, as well.

Jones got House Bill 462’s sponsor, Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell, to agree to send the bill to a conference committee to make the change.

That opened up another concern: beer on campus. The tasting or sampling room originally was to be on the respective campuses.

“There has to be someone tasting. A feedback environment,” said Representative Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings. “I think this is a great opportunity for those folks that are in these programs.”

He added patrons would still have to be 21 years old.

“And having it on campus gives us another opportunity to teach responsible use of alcohol as well,” McCarthy said.

“Well I’m glad you’re positive about that Representative McCarthy. I am not,” said Senator Dee Brown, R-Hungry Horse, and chair the conference committee.

“I see this as the opening of breweries on campus and I think it should be an absolutely no tolerance policy as it is on every campus,” said Brown. “Without getting it off campus to taste, I can’t support the bill as it is.”

The amendment would require the campuses to work with distributors to take the products manufactured in class to a licensed brewery for a public tasting.

The first two attempts to pass the amendment to move the tasting rooms off campus failed. The 3 Senate members voted “yes” while all 3 House members voted “no.”

When the House members realized that the bill could die in conference without this amendment, and after assurances from a representative of the Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association who said her members would work in good faith with the campuses, the amendment passed unanimously.

House Bill 462 now returns to each chamber for reconsideration.