Legislation Moves To Cut Taxes For Small Breweries In The Hudson Valley

Who doesn’t love cheaper beer? (Not to be confused with the oh-so-patriotic cheap beer—we’re talking about craft brews here.) Whether you knew it or not, the Lower Hudson Valley is home to a handful of small brewing companies. Local brands like Captain Lawrence, Newburgh Brewing Company, Rushing Duck Brewing, Sloop Brewing, Defiant Brewing, and Broken Bow Brewery populate the shelves of grocery stores and beverage marts to bring you high-quality beers with that local New York gusto we all know and love. And this craft revolution isn’t just a flash in the pan: since 2011, the number of small breweries in New York State has nearly doubled to 181, the fifth highest in the country.

As a result of this nationwide surge in the craft brewing industry, the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, or the Small BREW Act, was introduced in Congress in 2013. It, along with the Fair Beer Act, aims to create jobs and boost local economies by cutting taxes for brewers that produce less than six million barrels per year. “Besides making great beer, New York’s craft breweries employ thousands of people and contribute over $2.2 billion to our economy every year” Westchester Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D) said in a statement last week. Maloney is teaming up with Westchester’s local brewers to support the Small BREW Act in hopes of eventually aiding their expansion, and as a result, benefiting our economy. Each job in the beer industry supports 45 more in industries like agriculture, marketing, manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, financial services, grocery, restaurant, and retail, according to Maloney’s office.

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Image courtesy of Brewers Association

This chart shows the economic impact craft brewers have had on New York State.

“We’re extremely excited about how far it’s come” said Scott Vaccaro, owner of Captain Lawrence Brewing Company located in Elmsford. Currently, taxes make up 40% of the cost of beer, according to government sources; small brewing companies pay $7 for every barrel produced. Should this legislation go through, small brewers will only have to pay half as much. With a little extra cash in their pockets, these companies will have more room to expand. “Being a smaller brewer, our most important resource (and the place where we are most outmanned) is in the sales field. Going up against these big brewers, they have deeper pockets and more sales people so we’d probably be able to hire two more people if this were to go through” said Vaccaro.  Eventually, he noted, the price of their beer could go down.

Vaccaro was just seventeen when he began brewing in his family home on Captain Lawrence Drive in South Salem. “I love that we’re in an area with such a rich and diverse culinary scene, and an area with not only such amazing restaurants, but some amazing farms as well,” Vaccaro said. “We’re really able to get the best of both worlds; we’ve got the city and the country. We’re right in the middle.” With lower taxes, the Westchester area would become even more attractive to brewers—and competition is greatly welcomed. “If you look at some of the most craft-heavy and craft-savvy markets in the country, it would be San Diego, Portland, and Seattle. There are more breweries per capita in those markets than anywhere in New York, so ‘the more the merrier’ seems to be working out.”

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