Montana Historical Society Receives Grant to Capture Oral Histories on State’s Brewing Industry

Montana Historical Society Receives Grant to Capture Oral Histories on State’s Brewing Industry

Anneliese Warhank, Archivist and Oral Historian, Montana Historical Society

The Montana Historical Society Research Center has received a $4,500 grant from Humanities Montana to conduct a series of oral history interviews designed to begin capturing the history of modern craft brewing and breweries in Montana. Anneliese Warhank, Certified Archivist and Oral Historian for MHS, will coordinate the efforts of the Montana Brewery Oral History Project. 

Over the next two years, the project will gather oral histories that focus on the industry, beginning with the reemergence of microbreweries in the state in the 1980’s. It will also take a look at the industry’s attempt during the 1995 and 1997, and eventual success in the 1999 legislative sessions at passing legislation which allowed for breweries to operate taproom. Finally, the project will analyze how the industry evolved following the passage of the bill. 

Despite the fact that the actions and developments of modern day breweries and the industry are often documented in news articles published by regional media outlets, these articles usually focus on a singular event, providing scant background and no follow-up to document the event’s effects. Similarly, existing writings on the industry tend to focus on a single aspect, whether political, economic, or social. This project will combine all three of these themes to provide perspective on how each theme has impacted the other two. 

Selected by a five member advisory board, the initial interviews will capture the history of those who played a significant role in the development of the craft brewing industry in Montana. The recordings and transcripts created through this project will become part of the permanent collections of the Montana Historical Society Research Center and will be accessible to the public for research and study. The MHS will host MP3 recordings of the oral histories on its digital collections website, a platform currently under development. A second phase of the project focusing on the industry from 2008 to the present time is set to begin following the completion of this project.