New Brewery Sets Sights on Downtown Libby

By Beacon Staff

A new brewery in downtown Libby could be on tap. Two local women are applying for a loan from the city to help set up the taproom and open Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company this summer.

Montana is ranked second in the nation for breweries per capita. In 2012, there were more than 2,400 breweries operating in the United States, the highest total since the 1880s. According to the Montana Brewers Association, there are more than 40 operating in the state and five are located in the Flathead Valley, from Polson to Eureka. Cabinet Mountain Brewing would be Libby’s first brewery.

“It’s a niche that has gone unfulfilled,” said Sarah Dinning, one of the brewery’s owners and co-founders. “Libby people like to have fun and there are a lot of beer drinkers here.”

Dinning has worked as a dental hygienist in Libby for years but was having a hard time finding work. She said early last year she was either going to have to create her own job or leave Libby. It was about that same time she visited a brewery in Phillipsburg and realized that Libby needed something similar; a family-friendly place for locals and visitors alike.

“That was the light bulb moment,” she said.

Upon returning to Libby, Dinning was talking to her friend, Kristin Smith, about the idea of opening a brewery. Smith loved the idea and teamed up with Dinning to get to work. In recent months, they have started working with a brew master from Portland, Ore., who will move to Libby later this year to head up the operation.

Dinning said they hope to produce 800 barrels of beer annually and at first will serve it at the tap house, as well as at area bars and taverns. Eventually, they hope to bottle their beer as well. Dinning and Smith have also started looking for a location in downtown Libby. They hope to rent a space at first with the option to buy a building in the future.

“We want to do it downtown because we want to revitalize downtown Libby,” Smith said. “Breweries are an attraction for visitors and are a fun place to go. It’s a destination.”

Smith said they would need about $300,000 to get the operation off the ground and recently applied for a loan from the Montana Department of Commerce’s Community Development Block Grant program. The city of Libby is the brewery’s sponsor for a $125,000 loan and the Kootenai River Development Council will manage it if it is successful in its bid.

Development council deputy director Brigid Burke said the money would be a grant to the development council and would then be loaned to the brewery. The loan agreement requires that the business creates at least 5.6 fulltime jobs within two years. It also requires that 51 percent of the people employed come from low to moderate-income backgrounds.

“A brewery will be an incentive for people to turn off the highway and explore downtown,” Burke said.

Currently the closest breweries to Libby are Homestead Ales near Eureka and the Kootenai River Brewing Company in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

For more information about the Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company, visit them on Facebook.

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