Tester bill aims to cut taxes, speed up labeling for Montana’s craft breweries

Sen. Jon Tester this weekend stopped at KettleHouse Brewing Co.’s plant in Bonner for a beer, and to promote a new bill aimed at cutting taxes and reducing regulations for small brewers, distillers and vintners.

As proposed, Tester’s Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act would cut excise taxes on those businesses and speed up the process of getting labels approved by regulators.

That would reducing the time it takes to get a product on the shelves, he said.

“Montana’s brewers and distillers use local grain to make some of the best spirits in the world,” Tester said. “Easing excessive taxes and regulatory burdens will let brewers and distillers continue to grow and innovate, while strengthening our economy and creating jobs across the state.”

According to the Montana Brewers Association, the state is home to more than 80 small breweries that support more 2,700 jobs. Together, they produce more than 6 million gallons of beer each year.

Montana breweries also purchase more than 3 million pounds of malt grain from Montana farmers and contribute over $400 million to the state’s economy each year.

The bill has the support of Tim O’Leary, owner of Kettlehouse Brewing.

“This bill will give us the certainty we need to plan for our business’ growth,” O’Leary said. “We’ll use this money to reinvest in our business and our employees, and making this permanent will give us great confidence and allow us to keep growing well into the future.”

The legislation would cut excise taxes in half for small breweries on their first 60,000 barrels of annual production, then lower the excise tax by $2 for every barrel produced up to 2 million barrels.

For small distillers, Tester’s bill would cut the excise tax from $13.40 to $2.70 per gallon for the first 100,000 gallons produced.

“Montana’s craft brewing industry is an important economic engine in our state,” said Matt Leow, executive director of the Montana Brewers Association. “This bill, which prevents a tax hike on small breweries at the end of this year, will help Montana’s small, locally-owned breweries continue to grow, create jobs and strengthen Montana’s economy. We thank Senator Tester for his leadership and for supporting Montana’s craft brewers.”

Sen. Steve Daines also supports the measure.