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Craft beverage industry continues to help boost upstate economy

Tom Magnarelli
Sam Filler, the head of the Craft Beverage Initiative at Empire State Development, speaking in Syracuse.

The craft beverage industry is revitalizing the upstate economy with billions in revenue and tens of thousands of jobs. The nonprofit Syracuse First held its New Economy Summit this week to discuss improving the region's service and craft beverage industry.

Seventy new breweries were created in New York state between 2013 and 2014, adding an additional billion dollars in economic impact. There are 83 farm breweries in the state which received help in getting licenses, thanks to legislation that requires 20 percent of hops and 20 percent of all other ingredients to be grown or produced in New York state.    

Sam Filler, who leads the Craft Beverage Initiative at Empire State Development, says this industry is helping to drive the upstate economy, and he pointed to one Syracuse brewing company as an example.

“It’s connected to our agricultural sector our industrial heritage and redeveloping our downtown areas because brewers like Empire Brewing, they're a destination and they really help create a new buzz in our older upstate cities,” Filler said.

The Craft Act became law last November, allowing brewers to sell their product by the glass from their production facility. Previously, brewers were only allowed to give tastings but could sell by the glass if they had a restaurant attached. Filler says the impact the industry has on jobs is wide reaching.

“They employ a lot of people, but that's because there's a lot of different things that need to happen from marketing from bottling to making the beer. Same as the wineries, employ a lot of people as well. This is why the governor really sees that this industry is so critical.”   

So what's the next big craft beverage? Filler says cider is now the fastest growing sector. A farm cidery license requires that all of the apples used in production be grown in New York State.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.