Baucus and a new brew



Sen. Max Baucus stepped before a crowd of conservationists, ranchers and craft brew fanatics at Tamarack Brewing's Missoula location this afternoon with an intriguing announcement: Montana beer and Montana politics have merged. At some point this summer, Tamarack will tap it's latest recipe: a saison brewed with state-grown malt, honey and spruce tips. And in an effort to increase awareness of one of Baucus' flagship pieces of legislation—the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act—the brewery has dubbed it the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Ale.

"This is a no-brainer," Baucus said, adding he "cannot think of a better combination" than simultaneously promoting craft beer and preservation of the Rocky Mountain Front. Conservationist Bert Lindler similarly drew parallels between the two causes. "You can't rush a good beer," he told the audience. "It takes time, commitment and patience. Same with the Heritage Act. A good beer goes down easy. So does the Heritage Act."

Baucus reintroduced the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act in mid February, raising to the Congressional level an effort begun nearly a decade ago by a hodge-podge of locals called the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front. The bill was initially introduced in 2011, but failed to move through committee. Baucus hopes that, with a special brew in the mix, the proposal will gain renewed traction.

"When the beer comes out and people start enjoying it," Baucus told the Indy after the event, "it'll remind people to get behind the act."

After announcing his retirement in 2014 last month, Baucus singled out the heritage act as one of his top priorities in his final term.

Lacy Lopez, Tamarack's general manager in Missoula, had more news to add. The brewery officially launched a design contest for the official Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Ale logo. Anyone over the age of 21 is eligible to enter, and the contest runs through midnight on July 15. The winning design will be announced when the ale is done barrel-aging in August, and will be featured on posters, coasters, shirts and other Tamarack schwag. For more details, click here.

Tamarck's new ale may provide a nexus for craft beer and conservation, but ultimately the fate of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act will fall to Congress. When asked if he'll use the ale to swing votes back in Washington, D.C., as well, Baucus adopted a look of sudden and intense concentration.

"I hadn't thought about it," he said. "That could be a good idea..."

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