New York’s Governor Cuomo made an announcement this Valentine’s Day: New Yorkers are in love with craft beer brewed in the state — so much so that it now has 400 breweries, surpassing the previous record of 393 set in 1876. From the Big Apple to the Finger Lakes expectations for good beer are high, and growth surrounding New York’s craft brewing industry is still on the agenda.
“Once one of the largest producers of beer in the country, New York continues to lower the costs of business by modernizing laws and rolling back red tape to restore the Empire State as the standing leader in the craft beer manufacturing industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “The enormous growth New York’s craft beverage sector has experienced in recent years is a testament to the innovation, entrepreneurship and hard work of our brewers, who are creating jobs, driving tourism, helping our local farms, and instilling pride in every corner of this great state.”
The red tape to which the governor referred was cut very creatively in 2013 when New York’s Farm Brewery Law went into effect. Since that time, the number of breweries in the state has exploded, and New York craft beer was last reported to be 4th in the country with an economic impact of over $4 billion. In addition to benefiting breweries, the Farm Brewery Law has been an aid to new business around the NY craft beer industry by increasing tourism and supporting the state’s farmers and hop growers.
According to Cornell University, in response to a rising demand for locally sourced agriculture, the acreage of hops grown in New York nearly doubled from 2014 to 2016, while the acreage of malting barley increased by 374 percent over the same two-year period. New York is also now home to thirteen malt houses, all of which have opened following the demand generated by the new farm brewery license. These have also generated employment and economic development for supporting industries, including bottling, construction, freight, printing and advertising, as well as growing agri-tourism in the state, augmenting New York’s $100 billion tourism industry.
“I heard somebody joke about it — in New York State, if you can grow it we can figure out how to turn it into an adult beverage,” said NYS Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball in a recent interview in the craft beer web series Turning Craft. “But we’re not just about having people drink adult beverages — this is about our economy, because now we need the agricultural industries to ramp up and plant more barley, plant more hops, plant more rye — and suddenly they have an option.”
A recent episode of Turning Craft explores the impact of New York’s Farm Brewery Law on the state’s brewing and agriculture industries, featuring conversations with Senator David Valesky and Commissioner Richard Ball.
Modeled from its 1970s farm winery law, New York’s Farm Brewery Law was designed to boost demand for products grown in New York state, and it seems to be doing just that. The farm brewery has become something of a staple in Upstate and Central New York, and it has been changing the way the region’s producers create their beer, as the law directs that it be made up of primarily local ingredients. In fact, by 2024 NY farm breweries will be required to source at least 90 percent of a beer’s ingredients from within the state.
“The growth of craft breweries is a vital part of our economy in upstate New York, because it drives tourism, creates jobs and boosts the local economy,” said Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Senator Rich Funke. “These efforts are clearly paying off now that we have broken the all-time record for the number of breweries operating across our state, and the future looks even brighter still.”
The new farm brewery license allows craft breweries that use ingredients grown in New York to conduct onsite tastings, open restaurants, engage in self-distribution, and open up to five no-fee off-site branch stores anywhere in the state. In just five years, 202 licenses have been issued, in addition to 29 farm brewery branch stores with tasting rooms now operating throughout New York.
“When Good Nature started, fewer than seven years ago, there were 60 breweries in New York State. There was no such thing as a farm brewery. There were no malt houses, and fewer than 20 acres of hops under cultivation,” said Carrie Blackmore, President & Co-Founder of Good Nature Farm Brewery. “Look at us now! Breweries are growing agriculture, jobs, and tourism in our state. This milestone is testament to the quality of the beer we produce, and to our cultural & economic impact. We are proud to brew all our beers under our farm brewery license, and are grateful for all the support our industry has received.”