The rumors were never true. Jeff Grant heard them often over the years—how Draught Works never intended to package its beer, how the brewery was content just being a bustling neighborhood taproom. After pouring a cream ale for the day's first customer, he pulls up a stool and, in a thoughtful baritone, sets the record straight.
"To be in a can was always part of the plan. We like to think that we grow slow and methodical, but once we decide to do something, we chase it aggressively."
With all the trucks and bundled-up workers coming and going, there's been about as much activity outside Draught Works the past few weeks as within. Once the Freestone Climbing Gym moved out of the cavernous digs next door, Grant's operation began the arduous process of moving in. By March, he and fellow co-owner Paul Marshall plan to start canning three of their flagship beers in the expanded facility. That means four to five new full-time employees, Grant says, and a production increase from 3,000 barrels a year to as much as 6,000 or 7,000.
"We won't grow our territorial market just because of the canning expansion. We want to continue and will continue to just focus on western Montana territory."
The question likely rattling around the skulls of many Missoulians is how much this expansion will impact the taproom where it all started. The answer is not much. No increase in seating, no change in how long the taps flow. Although Draught Works did attempt to secure a beer and wine license last year—a move that would have allowed for extended hours had it not hit a snag with the state—Grant says the effort was completely divorced from the canning pursuit. "The beer and wine license ship has sailed," he adds. "We're not revisiting it."
If the new facility has any effect on the retail side at all, it will likely manifest as an increase in the number of new beers available for sampling by thirsty patrons. The taproom has always been Draught Works' testing ground, a way to settle on flagship brews, experiment with seasonals and, rumors aside, prep for the big leap they knew would one day come. Now that it's here, Grant says, it "almost kind of feels like starting over again."