How "Made In Montana" alcohol gets to retailers

How "Made In Montana" alcohol gets to retailers
Posted at 10:29 AM, Feb 23, 2024

HELENA — When you see a bottle of liquor on the shelf labeled Made in Montana, you may think its journey to local liquor stores is pretty simple, just like going from point A to point B, but there's more to it than meets the eye.

There are a few steps that have to happen before bottles of Montana liquor hit the shelves.

Montana made liquor packages

"It's important to work with those businesses and make sure that they're successful and also that they're following the law and make sure that the consumers are protected in that process," said Becky Schlauch, Alcoholic Beverage Control Administrator.

First, a Montana distillery has to get a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, where they will then apply to the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR) through the Alcohol Beverage Control Division (ABCD) for a liquor license, and specialists can then either approve or deny a request.

After attaining a liquor license, the next step is the label approval process.

Once the label is up to code, the bottle will head to the DOR's warehouse where then it would be prepared to be packed and ready to ship out.

"We make sure that everybody is properly licensed and regulated and that their products have all been approved so that we can make sure they're safe for consumers and then also by coming through the warehouse here," said Schlauch.

The DOR's Licensing Specialists go through this lengthy process to make sure each bottle is regulated, to collect taxes due to the state, and to make sure the liquor is up to standard for consumption.

But why is that so important?

"In other countries, sometimes you'll see that there's tainted liquor products and people die because of that. We want to make sure that that doesn't happen in Montana," said Schlauch.

The DOR has 3,500 licensees with distilleries, wineries, breweries, and wholesalers off and on premises throughout the state of Montana.

Now, Alcohol production in the state of Montana continues to grow...

"In the last five years, our distillers have gone from about 20 in the state in 2018 to 30 in fiscal year 23," said Schlauch.

With the DOR handling more and more Montana Made liquor, and other forms of local and commercial alcoholic products as well, there is a lot of traffic heading in and out of their warehouse.

To keep up, they are expanding and upgrading their storage to ship products out more efficiently, for consumers to enjoy a drink that is Montana Made.

Montana ABCD's blueprint

"We're going to be adding a 30,000 square foot addition," said Schlauch, "and in that addition, we'll have an automated storage and retrieval system which will allow us to store a lot of product to make sure that we can meet the demands of the agency stores and all the consumers in Montana for many years to go."

The ABCD is currently preparing for the new addition, once the weather warms up for construction.