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Empire Brewing Company seeking federal funding for expansion

By Eric Reinhardt


SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Empire Brewing Company, a Syracuse–based brewer of handcrafted ales and lagers, has plans to expand its operations and add jobs.

The brewery is working to build its Empire Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia to grow hops and create a bottling facility. The brewery would use the facility to bottle its own beer for the first time in the company’s 20-year history.

The expansion will create at least 50 jobs in Central New York and enable the craft brewery to expand its footprint across the state and the country.

That’s according to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.), who today visited the local establishment to launch his push to secure federal funding for the expansion.

Empire Brewing is currently seeking $200,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assist the expansion effort.

Schumer pledged his full support of Empire’s efforts.

“They’re looking to create a new model and become the next upstate New York brewer to take a major step forward and begin distributing their beer across the state,” Schumer said in his remarks at the Armory Square restaurant.

Empire’s model of having a brew pub, hops farm and bottling plant could help “propel” Central New York’s craft-beer industry, he added.

The expansion will allow the company to better meet demand, seize more of the craft-beer market, and prepare for further expansion, the Democrat said.

Specifically, Empire is seeking $200,000 in funding from the USDA Value-Added Producer grant program.

The program helps beginning farmers like Empire who are seeking to develop “value-added” products, according to Schumer’s office.

“I will be calling Secretary of Agriculture [Thomas] Vilsack personally to tell him this should be a priority,” Schumer told those gathered at the late-morning announcement.

In Empire’s case, the grant would ultimately help to offset the costs of third-party ingredients, packaging, inventory management software, and product marketing, the office added.

“If it weren’t for the [legislation permitting a] Farm Brewery license, this project would not exist,” said David Katleski, owner of Empire Brewing and the current president of the New York State Brewers Association.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July 2012 signed the legislation establishing farm-brewery licenses. The legislation took effect in January 2013.

The farm-brewery license allows craft brewers that use products grown in New York to operate in a fashion similar to the state’s farm wineries, the governor’s office said in an Oct. 9, 2013 news release that welcomed 14 newly licensed farm breweries.

Empire Brewing started operations in 1994 at 120 Walton St. in Syracuse’s Armory Square and has contract brewing operations in Brooklyn.

The company in 2010 began distributing its beer off-premise to wholesalers and retailers throughout New York, but has never bottled its own beer for sale on store shelves.

With bulk distribution, Empire Brewing has reached its production capacity at its Syracuse brewpub and at its contract-brewing partner, Greenpoint Beer Works, in Brooklyn.

In order to meet increasing demand, Empire decided to expand its operations with the launch of its Empire Farmstead Brewery, a 22-acre farm with a 28,000-square-foot brewery and packaging plant located on Route 13 in Cazenovia.

The new facility will expand production from 4,500 barrels per year to 20,000 barrels, according to Schumer’s office.

The Farmstead Brewery is scheduled to open in the Spring 2015, according to the brewer’s website.

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