A Beer That Supports Alcohol Abuse Awareness?

By Kelly Burch 08/31/17

A university and a brewery have partnered up, raising awareness and eyebrows for the cause. 

A group of friends toasting with glasses of beer

In an untraditional partnership, the University of Montana and local Big Sky Brewing Company are partnering to produce a beer that will benefit an alcohol abuse awareness and prevention program on campus.

GRIZ Montana Lager was launched on August 22 and will be available for sale until next spring as part of the university’s 125th anniversary celebrations. Proceeds from the sale of the lager will benefit alcohol abuse awareness at the university’s Curry Health Center and a shuttle bus in downtown Missoula, that will presumably help transport students who have been out drinking. 

Mario Schulzke, UM’s chief marketing officer, said that the project is part of an ongoing push from the university to license the UM brand to local companies, according to The Missoulian. “We’re focused on building more local relationships with local businesses to help them increase sales,” he said. “That money ultimately stays in our community, so hopefully it’s a win-win. We want to help them as much as we can.”

However, the idea of licensing to a brewery and using the money to fund alcohol abuse prevention becomes even more strange when one considers that UM is a dry campus, except for special events like concerts and sports games. 

“We are aware that it’s not a no-risk proposition,” Schulzke said. “It has potential advantages and disadvantages, and we thought long and hard about it. That being said, there are a lot of existing relationships between the university and various alcoholic brands.”

UM’s athletic department, for example, has a relationship with Miller Coors. Schulzke says that the partnership with Big Sky Brewing Company will have a direct benefit to students, even if it does raise a few eyebrows along the way. 

"This is really the first time we’ve ventured out to do something that’s going to benefit the campus as a whole,” he said. “I can see why people would be nervous, but the benefits outweigh the risks.”

UM business school graduate Bjorn Nabozney, the co-founder of Big Sky Brewing, said that he wrote the business plan for Big Sky Brewing Company as part of his coursework there. 

“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. “We thought this partnership was a wonderful way to market a new product and give back to a great institution at the same time.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.