Senator launches campaign to promote N.Y.-made beer

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants your next beer to be locally brewed and advises retailers to “put mo

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants your next beer to be locally brewed and advises retailers to “put more of the Bud in the back.”

As the first step in his “I Love NY Brew” campaign, the state’s senior senator has written a letter to the New York State Restaurant Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores and Fuel Retailing, urging them to promote beers brewed in New York.

“You’ve just got to taste these beers,” he said in a phone conference. “They’re just great and different.”

The program is aimed at maximizing the potential of New York’s 77 breweries, which currently support about 59,000 jobs in the state. Schumer said the industry is growing, with 41 additional breweries in the planning stages. But he said more can be done to help the state’s brewers exceed their 7.5 percent market share in New York. He noted that Oregon brewers have 30 percent market

At a glance

Among the Capital Region’s breweries:

• Olde Saratoga Brewing Co.,Saratoga Springs

• CH Evans Brewing Co., Albany

• Mad Jack Brewing Co., Schenectady

• Brown’s Brewing Co., Troy

• Coopers Cave Brewing Co., Glens Falls

• Davidson Brothers Restaurant and Brewery, Glens Falls

share in their state and suggested that that could be the goal for New York’s breweries.

Citing 2010 figures from the Beer Institute, Schumer also noted that New York breweries paid $1.13 billion in federal taxes and $1.14 billion in state and local taxes last year.

One of the major challenges in expanding the reach of state brewers is the advantage major labels have with their marketing and advertising budgets. Gregg Stacey, vice president of marketing and sales at Brown’s Brewing Co. in Troy, said his company, which employs about 70 people, just can’t compete.

Max Oswald, sales and marketing director for Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., said their marketing efforts start at the grassroots level.

“As small brewers, we’re all undermanned. Very rarely do we have a lot of manpower,” he said. “It’s mostly guys like me going around and talking about the beer.”

To get their brand onto shelves and menus, Oswald said he tries to find the right niche for his products, which offer specific tastes that might be distinct from more mainstream offerings.

“I think what is happening now as the craft brewery movement is getting stronger, I think you’re getting consumers who are becoming loyal to the better beer category,” he said.

Oswald also tries to play up the local aspect, which means the beer is fresh and the more than 30 employees involved in the process are people who live in the community.

He acknowledged that one of the other challenges for small brewers is the cost of production, as they end up paying more for ingredients and their production is usually more expensive.

Bill McDonald, co-manager of the Van Dyck in Schenectady, which runs Mad Jack Brewing, said, “Any local publicity is great for us.”

Mad Jack is currently only available in kegs and will soon be available in restaurants besides McDonald-owned properties.

McDonald said there is definitely a demand for local beers like theirs. “We found the crazier the beer gets, the more people like it. There are people who want those exotic craft beers,” he added.

The I Love NY Brew effort will not include any money in its initial stages, according to Schumer. He said word of mouth efforts, starting with his letters and a lot of “hard work and elbow grease,” could eventually be followed by private or public funds.

The benefit of New York beers being available statewide could have a serious business impact, as Schumer noted how the Western New York-brewed Genesee Cream Ale has become very popular with “young hipsters in Brooklyn.”

He envisioned a path for New York’s breweries that would parallel the success of the state’s wineries, which could include tours.

As to whether there is room for growth in this industry, Dave Katleski, president of the New York State Brewers Association, noted that when the state’s population was a quarter of what it is now, there were 365 breweries in New York.

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