Ronan Co-op Brewery celebrates first year, new brews on tap for fall
A year ago the Ronan Co-op Brewery, one of the City of Ronan’s more unique downtown businesses, officially opened its doors and poured its first frosty glass of beer.
This past weekend, the brewery celebrated their one-year anniversary, a business milestone that about 22% of all new U.S. small businesses fail to reach according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The brewery celebrated with a two-day birthday bash.
Festivities began Friday night and ran through Saturday evening, and included local food truck vendors, outdoor yard games, a beer garden, live music and entertainment.
“I love this venue.” said Charles Lutz, band member of the local classic rock trio 440’s, who opened the festivities Friday evening.
“I enjoy playing here. It’s a very intimate setting. The lighting is great, and the artwork really adds character to the place,” said Lutz.
The brewery’s origins are
Co-op Brewery began shortly after the Montana Economic Development Association brought community members together in 2016 to discuss the town’s needs as many businesses where closing up shop and leaving downtown. Revitalizing Main Street was identified as the biggest priority.
One suggestion for revitalization was to open a downtown brewery that could serve as a gathering place for both community members and tourists. The idea caught traction with community members and the Ronan Co-op Brewery was developed in following years.
The plan seems to be working as a few new businesses have since opened up shop on Main Street.
“We have gotten a lot of visitor traffic this summer from folks passing through who found us either online or saw the billboard along the highway and stopped in for a beer,” said Ronan Co-op Brewery Board member and Beer Judge Certification Program Grandmaster Bob Hall. “We also have a strong core of customers from the valley who come in to buy beer regularly.”
Cooperatives, which are owned by members rather than outside shareholders, can operate for the benefit of their employees and community, rather than solely focusing on maximizing profits for shareholders. Members jointly own the business, have a voice in determining business practices and in the case of breweries, may even provide input on the beer being created and served.
The Ronan Co-op Brewery was Montana’s first cooperatively owned brewpub and one of less than 50 community-owned breweries in the country when it opened its doors back in September 2020.
According to Hall, the co-op membership is currently just over 400 member-owners. He noted that those members have really stepped up to meet the challenges of operating during a pandemic to support the co-op in their first year.
“We are fortunate to have a great base of owners and customers who supported us last year,” said Hall. “And yes, we are always looking for new members.”
With Spring Creek Kölsch and Flat Water Pale Ale leading the pack, Ronan Co-op Brewery boasts more than six house beers on tap all primarily brewed with Montana ingredients by Bob Hall and head brewer Jim Myers.
As for what’s on tap in the future at the brewery, Hall said he hopes the co-op continues to grow with more members and sees an increase in taproom visitation and sales. To that end, three additional beers are set to release soon.
“Fall is the season for malty beers,” said Hall. “Starting in October, we will release our Oktoberfest beer, a malty amber lager. November will see a Sticke altbier, a stronger version of our Amber ale and in December we will re-release ‘MacDonald’ a strong malty Scotch ale that was very popular last year.”
For those who wish to sample local brews on tap, the Ronan Co-op Brewery is located in downtown Ronan on the corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue SW.