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Craft beer industry in New York state is booming

By Kristin Nilsen


The craft beer industry in New York atate and Central New York is growing and making a big impact on area economies, thanks to consumer demand for craft brews like IPAs and state legislative and regulatory changes that have boosted sales. 

A new study funded by the New York State Brewers Association (NYSBA) found that the state’s craft beer industry generated $5.4 billion in economic impact in 2018. That’s up from roughly $2.5 billion in 2013, the last time the association did the study.

Paul Leone, executive director of Rochester–based NYSBA, says New York legislators have been receptive to making legislative changes that make it easier for craft brewers to grow.

The legislation included creating the farm brewery license in 2013, which allows craft brewers that use products grown in New York to operate similarly to farm wineries. The legislation allows farm brewers to open restaurants, conduct tastings of all farm produced beverages, and allows them to open five no-fee, off-site branch stores anywhere in the state, according to the governor’s office. Another law in 2016 expanded sales by the glass at breweries’ production facilities or off-site stores.

New York state now has 434 craft breweries, which is more than double from five to six years ago, according to the state. Leone says about one new craft brewery is licensed each week in the state. 

“It is a business that feeds off itself. It does really well when multiple breweries open. The customer wants to try different craft beers. When you have multiple breweries in an area, that area becomes a destination,” he says. This is what has happened in Onondaga County, which now has 21 breweries. 

The NYSBA report measured the number of jobs, wages paid to employees, and total output of New York’s 434 craft breweries. It documents the direct and ripple effects of the craft-beer industry in the Empire State and found the following:

• Total economic impact: $5.4B

o The combination of direct economic, supplier, and indirect economic impact.

• Direct economic impact: $3.5B

o The impact of the industry’s three segments: brewing, wholesaling, and retailing, in addition to the tourism impact of visitors to breweries and tap rooms.

• Supplier impact: $1.1B

o The production and sale of goods and services across a multitude of sectors, such as purchasing equipment and bottles, banking and marketing services, and government jobs for the regulation of craft beer-related businesses.

• Indirect economic impact: $771M

o The spending of wages earned by employees in the direct and supplier sectors, including dining at restaurants.

• Employment: 19,918 jobs

o The total number of jobs supported by direct, supplier, and indirect impact. New York’s craft-beer industry directly created 10,627 jobs, generating $722 million in wages.

• State and federal taxes: $545M

o The taxes paid by the businesses and their employees, as well as the excise and sales-tax revenues of in-state consumption.

• Licensed breweries: 434 breweries

o The number of craft breweries in New York state, which produced 2 million barrels of beer.

• Visitors: 48.6 million

o The number of customers served at New York state craft breweries, of which 8.9 million were tourists.

The New York State Brewers Association website ( details the economic impact by New York counties and by legislative district. Onondaga County has 21 breweries, 268 brewer jobs, 649 total jobs, $40.4 million total wages, and $144.4 million total output, per the study.

“I was really blown away by the results of this study,” Chris Ericson, president of NYSBA, said in an association news release. He is the owner of Lake Placid Pub & Brewery and Big Slide Brewery & Public House. “These numbers validate that New York state brewers have a substantial impact on the lives of residents. We are providing excellent careers for thousands of New Yorkers in every corner of the state,” he added.

The 2018 Economic Impact Study of the New York Craft Beer Industry was prepared by John Dunham & Associates (JDA). The NYSBA paid JDA $30,000 to produce the report, Leone says.

Founded in 2003, the New York State Brewers Association promotes New York state breweries. Leone is the first executive director of the trade group and was hired in 2013. He says his background is in TV production.

The membership fee to belong to NYSBA is about $250 per year, Leone says. Member dues are used to cover costs such as the study.       

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