Governor Steve Bullock today celebrated the completion of construction of Montana Craft Malt, a facility that will produce 10,000 tons of malt per year from world-class Montana-grown barley.
“It’s no secret that Montana’s craft beer industry is thriving, and the state’s growers continue to produce some of the highest quality grain in the world,” Governor Bullock said. “The Montana Craft Malt facility will capitalize on both strengths to help the state’s breweries deliver products that are made in Montana from seed to a pint glass and elevate Montana grown products to an international level.”
Governor Bullock was joined by Commerce Director Tara Rice and Montana Malt Craft President Jennifer O’Brien to celebrate the completion of the facility after two years of construction. Montana Craft Malt seeks to capitalize on the high quality and quantity of barley grown in Montana and supply specialty malt to the booming brewing industry in Montana, across the country, and internationally.
“Montana Craft Malt’s story is a perfect example of how the Department of Commerce is supporting business growth from an idea to a realized innovation, and every step along that path,” Commerce Director Rice said. “I’m proud to say this is a project borne out of Commerce research and supported by a variety of business development grant and technical assistance programs. I have no doubt Montana grown specialty malt will soon be found in craft brews around the globe.”
The project was inspired after the Research and Information Services Bureau at the Montana Department of Commerce completed a market analysis report in 2014 and has been supported by the agency with grants and technical assistance. The report was presented to Butte agri-businessman Ron Ueland, who personally invested and developed the project. Ueland used the report as guidance when seeking investment, financing, and assessing potential markets. Construction of the 30,000-square-foot facility began in 2018 and was continued by Ueland’s daughter Jennifer O’Brien after her father died in May of 2018.
“This project is enormous, and construction has taken almost two years, with extraordinary circumstances around every corner. The impossible was made possible through partnerships with public and private entities at the local, state, and federal levels,” O’Brien said. “We're all incredibly proud of what we've been able to do together. This facility represents a lot more than just malt.”
The U.S. Craft Brewers Association reports that revenue continues to grow in the industry and in 2018, grew to $27.6 billion. Craft beer now has a 24 percent dollar share of the U.S. beer market. In Montana, 92 breweries are operating with four new breweries in planning as of January. Montana is ranked second in the nation in breweries per capita and second in the nation in malt barley production. Montana brewers use seven million pounds of malted grain each year, half of which is grown in-state. Malt, the main ingredient used to produce beer, comes in base and specialty types. Specialty types give craft beers their unique tastes and qualities. With the completion of Montana Craft Malt, local brewers will have access to an array of classic and artisanal malts from Montana grown grains.
The facility will also have the opportunity to export specialty malts internationally, specifically to Mexico. In January of last year, Governor Bullock met with executives from the Mexican Craft Brewers Association to sign an agreement to continue collaboration between the organization and Montana’s barley growers. Mexico is the largest importer of U.S. malt and industry groups estimate almost 70 percent of imported malt is grown in Montana. In 2017, U.S. malt exports to Mexico were valued at $242 million.
Montana Craft Malt is located within the Montana Connections Business Development Park west of Butte at the intersection of I-90 and I-15 and two major rail lines. This industrial park’s tax increment financing has supported over $50 million of industrial infrastructure and has catalyzed over $575 million in private investment.