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Brewers ask Rep. Maffei for reduction in federal taxes

Ryan Delaney
The assembly line at the F.X. Matt Brewery, maker of Saranac beer, in Utica, N.Y.

Some New York craft brewers are asking their local congressman to reduce the federal taxes on their beer so they can continue to grow.

The number of craft brewers in the state has risen to more than 140 in the past two decades as demand for more flavorful beers has grown. A handful of brewers met with Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei Monday at Empire Brewery in Syracuse. They had two main requests.

A reduction in the federal excise tax will help them expand, Mark Rubenstein, owner of Middle Ages Brewery, said.

"We’re taxed in so many different directions," he said. "A little reduction would help us grow quicker."

Middle Ages opened in 1994 and employs 10 people brewing about 5,000 barrels of beer a year. Joining him at the table was David Katleski, owner of Empire and head of the New York Brewers Association and some brewers as new as this past weekend, like Peter Kirkgasser, who's Double Barrel Brewery opened Saturday.

Maffei, who represents the Syracuse area, says he supports legislation that would cut excise tax for the smallest brewers on a sliding scale "kind of like any graduated income tax," he said. "Let’s not punish the small folks just because their small. Particularly when they’re family owned and when they’re starting to employ a lot of people."

The tax would be cut in half for brewers that make less than 15,000 barrels a year.

"Once you get going, they’re going to create revenue, they’re going to hire people and they’re going to be a part of the overall attraction of central New York," Maffei said.

New York’s breweries got a big helping hand on the state level last year with the Farm Breweries Bill. That created a refund program for state excise taxes on beer and called for more use of local ingredients.

The brewers also wanted help expanding locally grown crops, like barley and hops. Most brewers are importing their grain from out of the country, they said.

Some of the local brewers said New York state is starting to catch up with others in pride of local beer.