MSUB Extended Campus

Connecting the campus to the community



Staff Blogs

Feb. 3, 2017brewery

Why Billings Needs More Breweries

By Kevin


Bend Oregon is a town in central Oregon of just over 80,000 folks. The population for the county is about 157,000. Bend sits in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, so it enjoys a semi-arid, high desert climate, receiving about 12 inches of rain per year. The Deschutes River runs through town.


Billings, has about 110,000 people and sits in a county of about 157,000. It also enjoys a semi-arid climate and receives about 14 inches of rain per year. Oh, and it has a river that runs through town.


Bend was named one of the best towns to live in by Outside magazine in 2006 and Billings in 2016.The communities and the counties that host them share a lot in common, but one area where they tend to diverge is in the number of craft beer breweries they contain.


Billings has seven breweries and there are a couple more in the area (Red Lodge and Laurel). That makes nine in the county. Bend has twenty-two (that’s 22!) breweries in town and there is another seven nearby. So they have access to 29 and we have nine. How can they support over three times as many breweries?


I first thought it might be because they get more visitors each year than Billings, and indeed Bend gets a lot of visitors.  A report by RCC Associates estimates that Bend received between 2.49 and 3.04 million visitors in 2015, some of which are thought to have visited more than once. According to Alex Tyson of Visit Billings, Billings had about 2 million visitors in 2010.  She also has data that suggests over $400 million is spent in Yellowstone County annually by non-Montana residents (ITRR, 2016).  If we also counted Montana residents who live outside of Billings and visit it on a regular basis, the number would likely be similar to Bend’s total.


Could it be that Bend has a younger population or the folks there have more disposable income? Billings has a slightly greater percentage of residents over 65 (15% vs. 12.4%), but the median household income is not much different. Bend - $52,989 vs. $51, 012 for Billings.


So, Billings, Bend, and their respective county populations are similar in size, the number of visitors is likely pretty much the same, and Billings has a slightly older population with similar income levels.


The only thing I can conclude is that Billings can support more craft breweries if we look at Bend as an example.