Craft beverage sector surpasses 1,000 producers in New York

Breweries lead growth but wine, cider and sprits producers proliferating as well
Chris Dorn, of Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, and Josh Knowlton, of Adirondack Brewery, collaborate on a product in 2015.
Chris Dorn, of Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, and Josh Knowlton, of Adirondack Brewery, collaborate on a product in 2015.

ALBANY — The state recently passed a milestone in the growth of its craft beverage industry.

There are now more than a thousand producers operating in New York, more than double the number in 2012, when state officials began policy changes and promotional efforts designed to help the sector grow.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced Thursday the ranks of craft alcoholic beverage makers had hit 1,005, up from 467 in 2012, when Cuomo hosted the state’s first summit for the industry. Boosting New York beer, wine, spirits and cider became an ongoing effort of his administration and enjoyed widespread support as more and more towns, cities and counties became home to producers.

Legislative and regulatory changes include lower taxes and fees, a new type of license for farm breweries and cideries, relaxing restrictive regulations, providing support for research, cutting in half the time it takes to obtain a license and modernizing the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control law.

The state ranks first in nation for the number of hard cider producers, second in craft distillers, third in breweries and fourth for the total number of wineries, the governor’s office said in a news release.

The booming craft beer industry has accounted for more than half of the craft sector growth in New York. Since that first summit in October 2012, the state added 285 new craft breweries, compared with 96 wineries, 95 distilleries, 39 cideries and 23 producers licensed to produce multiple types of alcoholic beverages.

Every region of the state has seen significant expansion of the craft beverage industry, Cuomo’s office said.

The Capital Region added 62 new craft beverage manufacturers, which was only the third highest in the state, but it saw a 1,000-percent increase in the number of off-site tasting rooms, the largest gain statewide.

The Center for Economic Growth, the Capital Region’s economic development agency, has encouraged the growth of the craft beverage sector here and sees it providing an economic benefit beyond the quality-of-life improvement it provides to fans of its products.

“Brewers and distillers have been part of making unique places to live, work and play,” CEG President Andrew Kennedy said. “New restaurants and bars offer craft products as a way to bring people in.”

He said the state policies have provided a strong boost for craft beverage producers.

“I think you have to commend the State Liquor Authority and Department of Agriculture and Markets working to address some of the issues out there that were barriers to growth.”

Craft alcohol is now easier to brew, bottle and sell in New York, he added.

The question periodically arises, particularly with craft beer: How many breweries is enough? 

Kennedy said he doesn’t know if there is a saturation point, and said if there is one it may be influenced by factors beyond the number of breweries, such as fluctuations in the national economy. But he added that the industry won’t just collapse: “There’s always going to be a market demand for a good product,” he said.

CEG said data show that 293 people worked in the Capital Region’s craft beverage manufacturing industry, up 142 percent from 2013.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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