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NY laws help growth of farm breweries

Ellen Abbott
Empire Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia

The Empire Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia has established itself as the largest farm brewery on the eastern seaboard. And a spate of new state laws, friendly to brewers, has made it possible.

It used to be that Madison County was a leading producer of hops, an ingredient in beer. Then along came Prohibition, which almost killed the brewing industry -- and the ancillary industries that supported it -- and created a series of laws unfriendly to brewers.

Now, almost 100 years later, beer is again big business in New York state. Craft breweries in particular have a $4 billion economic impact.

One of the leaders has been Empire Brewery in Syracuse. And now owner David Katleski has taken his business to the next level, building Empire Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia. The brewhouse produces beer, and grows hops and other ingredients, for use in the brewing process. He says he couldn’t have done it without New York state, which he says has gone out of it’s way to eliminate those Prohibition-era regulations, and offer economic development money.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul came to Cazenovia for the official ribbon cutting of the Empire Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia

"Honestly, we became experts at writing grants, because there is so much money that's out that that’s not even being used, that we tapped into. So we wanted to look at all the aspects of that, so we wouldn’t have to give up any equity,” said Katleski.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul travels the state on economic development business. She says she finds the brewery boom, along with growth in wineries and craft distilleries, as a sign the investment and rewiring of state laws, was worth it.

“When I see a craft brewery or a winery downtown, people coming to engage, I see great potential. I see first of all, they’re attracting young people who want to live and work and recreate in an areas like this. But also it sends the message that this is an area that is rebounding.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.