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Big Sky Brewing, Missoula.

Who could resist trying a beer called Moose Drool? Or Scapegoat, or Powder Hound, or Trout Slayer? With catchy names and tasty beers, Big Sky Brewing is the biggest brewery in the state with production of about 46,000 barrels of beer in the past year. That works out to around 630,000 cases or nearly 2.5 million six packs of beer that the brewery sold throughout Montana and in 24 states west of the Mississippi (except Arkansas and Louisiana) plus Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan.


Owners Neal Leathers, Bjorn Nabozney, and Brad Robinson brewed their first batch of beer, Whistle Pig Red Ale, in the summer of 1995, and it hit the market in time for the 4th of July weekend. When they first started thinking about names of beers, they decided they wanted to use big Montana animals as their theme. The most famous of the company's brands, Moose Drool, has a label with a moose lifting his head from a pond with water streaming off his muzzle.

Big Sky Brewing was a draft-only brewery for the first few years. They soon realized that they were growing rapidly and becoming a regional player. The owners decided to start bottling and distributing their beer. In 2002, they moved into a larger site (24,000-square-feet) near the Missoula airport to accommodate their growing operation. The brewery has a gift shop and hosts concerts at its outdoor venue. Some of the concerts have included Bob Dylan, Brandi Carlile, the Decemberists, and Modest Mouse, with the proceeds of beer sales going to local area nonprofits. Missoula's Glacier Ice Rink was one of the beneficiaries, receiving more than $30,000 to construct new locker rooms.

The brewery started out as a four-person operation. Now it has 45 employees with a payroll of about $2.35 million. Big Sky Brewing offers employees health insurance, 401K plans, and paid vacation.

According to Big Sky Brewing President Neal Leathers, the owners' future plans include continuing to expand their territory and getting their beers into more stores, restaurants, and taverns.

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Publication:Montana Business Quarterly
Article Type:Company overview
Geographic Code:1U8MT
Date:Dec 22, 2012
Previous Article:Beaver Creek Brewery, Wibaux.
Next Article:Bozeman Brewing Company, Bozeman.

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