Big Sky Brewing Company is by far the largest brewery in Montana and has the farthest reach nationally of any brew made in Montana. Big Sky products are distributed in 23 states (covering the west coast and working itself east). The brewery made national news in 2000 when it was sued by Moosehead Breweries in Canada for using the word “moose” in its most popular beer “Moose Drool.” The case was eventually settled with Big Sky agreeing to not sell Moose Drool directly to certain areas in eastern United States.
Their first step was to produce and “star” in a series on MCAT (Missoula’s local cable access television station) called Beer Talk. The show consisted of Brad and Neal tasting various beers, usually microbrews or imports, and commenting on what they liked and did not like about them. The program immediately set viewership records and led to many of the most successful call-in programs in MCAT’s history. If nothing else, Beer Talk showed a lot of Missoulians that Brad and Neal were passionate about beer! Unfortunately, neither of the two had much business experience, nor did they have a lot of local connections. That is where Bjorn entered the picture.
Bjorn was just finishing his B.A. in finance at the University of Montana. As a final project he was assigned to write a business plan. He chose to write up a plan for the brewery that Brad and Neal had been babbling about for a couple of years, and it was that business plan that really got the ball rolling towards making Big Sky Brewing Company a reality. Bjorn, Brad, and Neal took the plan to local attorneys, accountants, and bankers. They rewrote and improved it numerous times and finally went out to find investors. Bjorn is a native Montanan and he knew a lot of local business people. Also, both he and Brad are great salesmen, so while Neal stayed at home and brewed test batches of beer, Bjorn and Brad went out and raised capital. After about a year and a half, Big Sky Brewing Company had enough cash in the bank and a large enough bank loan to begin purchasing equipment and renovating its original location at 120-A Hickory Street. We brewed our first batch of beer, Whistle Pig Red Ale, in mid-June of 1995 and hit the market with it just in time for the 4th of July weekend. A couple of months later, Moose Drool Brown Ale and Scape Goat Pale Ale followed, and Big Sky Brewing Company was on its way.