Well, I think we can say with few reservations that this is one of the odder brewery partnerships we’ve seen in recent memory, at least on paper. The more you read into the circumstances of the partnership between Montana’s Big Sky Brewing Co. and the University of Montana, the more unusual it gets.
First things first: The University of Montana is actually an alcohol-free campus, “except for special events when folks sell beer and wine during concerts at the Adams Center or Washington-Grizzly Stadium,” according to The Missoulian. This, despite the fact that Montana regularly is near the top of U.S. states in per capita beer consumption—it was #3 overall in 2015 according to USA Today, which also included the nation’s second-highest rate of drunk driving fatalities behind only North Dakota, which is the #1 beer consumer per capita.
So with that in mind, it makes more sense that proceeds from the sale of Big Sky’s new Bohemian pilsner, Griz Montana Lager, will be used to benefit an alcohol abuse awareness and prevention program, along with a late-night downtown Missoula bus shuttle. But still—drinking beer for the sake of alcohol abuse awareness? Is this not in the same vein as “sex for abstinence awareness”?
Things begin to make more sense when you read about the connection that already existed between the creators of Big Sky and the university. Bjorn Nabozney, the co-founder of what is now Montana’s largest brewery, is a 1993 graduate of UM’s School of Business Administration, and wrote the original business plan for the brewery while attending the school. The brewery now has Montana’s largest craft beer footprint, and is available in 24 states.
“UM is a major asset to Missoula and the region, and we want to do everything we can to help the university succeed,” Nabozney said to The Missoulian. “We thought this partnership was a wonderful way to market a new product and give back to a great institution at the same time.”
Still, it’s not like pharmacies sell Vicodin to raise awareness about the dangers of opioid abuse, which will likely continue to have eyebrows raising at the unusual collaboration.
With that said, are we missing out on a chance to brand our future craft beer blind tasting articles as raising awareness of alcohol abuse? If there’s any recovery programs out there who would like to attach their names to such a hedonistic pursuit, by all means shoot us a message so we can talk figures.