Montana's First Co-op Brewery

About 12 miles south of Flathead Lake, the town of Ronan is a community based largely on agriculture. With several schools, banks, a golf course and an active business community, Ronan is home to an estimated 1,871 people (according to 2010 U.S. Census information.) But while it boasts a variety of businesses, including a telephone company, a movie theatre, a café, a thrift store, a bowling alley, hospital, and others, many Main Street storefronts remain empty or rundown. Roughly a third of Main Street buildings are vacant or in disrepair.

Through several public listening sessions held with economic developers in 2016, community members identified the revitalization of Main Street and increased business development as priorities for their town. With a cooperative development center on Main Street, eventually the idea of a cooperative brewery emerged.

A year and half later, 100 or so people gathered at a Ronan bar on a Saturday night as would-be owners of the Ronan Cooperative Brewery. The Ronan Valley Club buzzed with energy on Dec. 2 as friends, neighbors and strangers connected over a cold drink and an idea. The gathering was the first public event of an ownership drive currently underway for the proposed brewery.

“I was kind of wondering what would happen,” steering committee member Gail Nelson said as he surveyed the room with a smile. “I’m excited by this.”

Gail’s wife Barb, who also serves on the steering committee as chairperson, agreed.

“You can feel the excitement in the room,” she said. “I think we can do it. I really do.”

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