The Montana Historical Society sent word about its newest online exhibit, the Montana Brewery Oral History Project. The project, which was established in 2016, includes 20 interviews from individuals who worked in the brewing industry beginning in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.
In the 1980s and ’90s, although breweries in surrounding states could sell full size pints directly to their customers through taprooms, Montana law prohibited the on-site sale of beer (a residual effect of Prohibition). Something needed to change, so beginning in the 1995 Montana Legislative session a small group of Montana brewers brought forth a bill to modify the law.
This bill was strongly opposed by the tavern owners of the state, who wanted to protect the interests of their own industry. The bill was defeated in 1995 and once more in 1997. It was not until an agreement was made with the Montana Taverns Association during the 1999 session that a revised version of the bill was passed into law.
While the first two interviews were conducted by Anneliese Warhank in 2016, a $4,500 grant from Humanities Montana allowed this project to expand. An advisory board, comprised of members of the Montana brewing industry and Montana historians met in early 2017 to define the main interview topics and identify potential individuals to interviews. With the assistance of a contract oral historian, an additional 18 interviews were conducted during the following spring and summer. A contract transcriptionist transcribed those 18 interviews in their entirety. All participants were given the opportunity to review these transcripts before they were posted online.
The online exhibit contains approximately 18 hours of audio recordings from 19 interviews. Full transcripts of these interviews are available along with photographs captured during at the interviews. All 20 interviews can also be accessed in person at the Montana Historical Society Research Center.