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New York's Awesome Quest to Brew More Beer

By Aimee Duffy – Mar 8, 2014 at 2:45AM

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is behind a massive statewide effort to improve the economy by supporting breweries.

If there is one thing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo knows, it's that beer is good for the economy. Over the past few years, Gov. Cuomo has been a big part of the state's quest to grow its economy by brewing more beer.

Empire State stats
New York's unemployment rate is about 7.1% right now, sitting slightly higher than the national average of 6.6%. That doesn't bode well for its governor, which is why Cuomo is trying to leverage the beer industry to create more jobs. According to the Beer Institute, the direct impact of the beer industry in New York breaks down as so:

  • Brewing jobs: 1,830.
  • Distributing jobs: 7,500.
  • Retail jobs: 52,600.
  • Total wages: $2.08 billion.

As you can see, the state's approximately 126 existing breweries have had a significant impact on jobs and wages. The Beer Institute estimates, though, that when you factor in the indirect impact on agriculture, construction, transportation, and various other sectors employment, the industry is actually responsible for 46,260 more jobs.

Gov. Cuomo and other New York politicians believe that this is a great start, but there remains room for growth.

Government lending a hand
New York is supporting its beer industry at nearly every turn. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, recently toured a Buffalo brewery, stumping for federal legislation to support small brewers. Sen. Schumer is an advocate for the Small BREW Act in Congress, an act that could reduce the excise taxes for small brewers, giving them a leg up to grow their business.

Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo's proposed budget includes $163.7 million for the state's Department of Agriculture. Two of the major budget actions for the department's funds support the state's brewing industry.

The first is $1.1 million for "Taste-NY," a program that promotes locally grown and produced food and beverages at high-traffic venues such as rest stops, airports, and train stations throughout the state. The second is $40,000 to test different varieties of hops, with the intent to increase availability of locally grown beer ingredients.

Perhaps the most significant move New York has made on behalf of the industry came last year, when legislation went into effect that not only reduced the permitting requirements on breweries, but encouraged agricultural development as well.

The new law created a "farm brewery" license, which gives brewers a break on acquiring a permit to sell beer or cider by the glass, provided they meet certain stipulations regarding the percentage of locally grown ingredients in their beverages. The new license is similar to one created for wineries in the 1970s.

In an announcement celebrating the success of the new law in October, the governor shared some of his thoughts on the future of New York beer:

With the opening of 14 farm breweries since January [2013] and a nearly 100 percent increase in our microbreweries, it is clear that New York's craft beer industry is booming -- and this is just the beginning. ... The State is committed to promoting New York's exceptional food and beverage producers through our Taste NY initiative and investments in research and development to further grow the industry. Not only do these efforts benefit New York's craft breweries, but they also help our agricultural sector to flourish.

You don't often see governors going to bat for beer, but that's exactly what Cuomo has done, recognizing the trickle-down effect the industry can have on the economy. In fact, it wasn't an industry representative that announced tickets were on sale for the Craft New York Beer Fest last week, it was Gov. Cuomo. Other states should take note.

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