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Montana Microbrew

Everything Motorists Want to Know about Road Cyclists

Last week, I vented about the incredibly dangerous rage a few motorists have for road cyclists. (You should check out the comment section.) This week I'm trying to be more constructive and address some of the reasons I think might cause the anger, things many motorists might not understand about cycling and cyclists. Hopefully, this "motorist Q&A" helps explain why cyclists do the things they do and lessen concerns drivers have, which should make it easier for all of us to courteously and safely share the road. I could, actually, give the same answer for all of these questions--"it's the safest way to ride"--but I will try to be more helpful.

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Kettle House Brewing Co. Snags Bronze Medal at Big-Time Beer Fest

Raise a glass, Missoula: The Kettle House Brewing Co. won third place this weekend at one of the world's biggest beer contests, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo. The bronze in the annual event went to Kettle House’s Cold Smoke Scotch Style Ale in the Scottish Style Ale category. The GABF this year smashed all previous records by drawing more than 46,000 beer-lovers and attracting 3,038 entries from around the country and the globe, making it the world's largest commercial beer competition, according to the Brewers Association, the group that puts on the event. More than 450 breweries entered the contest, in which trained tasters chose winners from among 40 or so beers in each of dozens of categories.

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Join the Brew Crew

This just in: You don't have to be a brewer to belong to the Montana Brewers Association (MBA) and support Montana's rapidly growing craft beer industry. Announced today by MBA executive director Tony Herbert, Montana's craft brewers have started offering a chance to "join the brew crew" by becoming an individual member. And what a deal! For $25, you can get a numbered membership card good for $50 to $60 worth of beer at the 16 participating breweries.

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How and Why to Drink Locally

I'm back on the Beer Beat today and wondering why so many eateries with a license to sell beer don't support their local brewery. If you've been following my Microbrew Montana series, you probably noticed a common thread running through the articles. Probably every brewer I interviewed boasted about the sense of community that made their businesses tick. They all talked about getting support from local businesses and how they went to great lengths to return that local support. But surprise, go next door or across the street to have dinner and ask for one of the local brewery's products, and you'll far-too-often hear a different story. Many owners of restaurants in Montana with craft breweries nearby often offer microbrews from Colorado or Oregon on tap, but nothing or almost nothing from their local brewer. It doesn't happen everywhere, of course, and some local eateries prioritize local brews, but it happens way too often. I have to ask why?

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Montana Legislative Scorecard

I still have emotional scars from not making the basketball team. Back then, my coach told me, "Well, you're short, but you're slow." And that was the end of my basketball career. I did learn something, though, to follow my shots. The Montana Legislature passed its budget bill and went home last week. During the session, I wrote commentaries about three bills our state lawmakers deliberated. Here's what happened on these three bills.

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High-Octane Beer Bill Update

SECOND UPDATE, March 27, 11:30 am. Yesterday, the Montana Senate voted 39-11 to pass HB 400. That was the second reading vote, with the third reading scheduled this afternoon, with the results likely to be similar. That means the bill goes to the Governor's Office for signature. Tony Herbert, executive director of the Montana Brewers Association, said he has received no signs that the Governor won't sign the bill. He also gave speical kudos to the bill's main ball carrier, Represenative Deborah Kottel (D-Great Falls) and to Senator John Brueggeman (R-Polson) for carrying the bill on the Senate floor. "This vote is a good indication that the legislature understands the value and importance of a vibrant brewery industry in Montana," Herbert said. "Brewers are creative in their trade, and HB400 gives them the opportunity to expand in new areas. Like Debbie Kottel has said many times, 'Montana has the potential to become the Napa Valley of Beer.'” See following update and article for more details. UPDATE: On Thursday, February 12, the Montana House of Representatives passed HB 400 83-17. "It was a very strong vote," Tony Herbert, executive director of the Montana Brewer's Association, told NewWest.Net, "and now the bill on its way to the Senate." Herbert cautioned that this was only a Second Reading vote, with the Third Reading vote schedule for today. "It's not so much a high-octane bill," he said. "It's more of traditional craft beer bill. It places the emphasis on the styles of beers brewers can make and the types of retailers can sell. It isn't about making stronger beer."

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High-Octane Beer Bill Advances

A bill to allow Montana brewers to produce and Montana retailers to sell high-octane beer has just cleared a major hurdle in the Montana Legislature. Earlier today, the House Business and Labor Committee voted 14-4 to send HB 400, sponsored by Deborah Kottel (D-Great Falls), to the House floor for a full vote.

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Brewmasters and the Department of Revenue, a Peaceful Consensus

Last August, I wrote a three-part series about a serious dispute between Montana's brewers and the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR). In a surprise move, DOR proposed a new administrative rule that "clarified" the current 8 pm closing time and require brewers to close instead of stop selling and serving beer at 8 pm. The proposed rule was instantly controversial. After receiving many angry comments and facing the expectation of a contentious public hearing, DOR Director Dan Bucks pulled the proposed rule from consideration and started working on a new version, which is now up for public comment. And, it seems, it's a great example of how things should be done.

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Reflections from the Microbrew Trail

For the past year, I've been on the Microbrew Trail, visiting every brewery in Montana, except one, and posting articles on all 24 of them. You can read the entire series here. Along the beer trail, I'm made a few observations about what might be Montana's fastest growing industry and thought I'd pass them on to microbrew-loving readers.

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Beaver Creek Brewing: Montana’s Microbrew Oasis

If you're like me, you're always asking yourself how dedicated you are? Well, I've recently learned, I'm not dedicated enough. When I took on the Microbrew Montana project back in February I carefully calculated the miles I'd have to drive and the amount of time it'd take to see all the microbreweries in Montana. Then, back in July, Jim Devine called and blew up my plan. He and his two partners, Sandy Stinnett and Russell Houck, had just started the Beaver Creek Brewery in Wibaux, and he wondered when I'd be out to see him.

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