A Pint of Support for NY Breweries

By Matt Markham

May 9, 2012 Updated May 9, 2012 at 6:32 PM EDT

Cooperstown, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Legislation brewing on both the federal and state levels would offer tax credits and exemptions for microbreweries. They are growing in size and number in our region.

Brewers and economic developers in Otsego County say any assistance will strengthen those relationships.

A hop to help brewers in what was, many years ago, the hop growing center of the United States.

One old farm near Cooperstown has been home for Brewery Ommegang since 1997.

"The brewery in the last year has tripled its capacity," said Brewery Ommegang president and CEO Simon Thorpe. "In the last three years, we've increased the number of people working here to about eighty."

50,000 barrels of Belgian-style ale are shipped from here to forty-eight states. For Ommegang, the ability to keep pace is harmed by a recent Supreme Court ruling. The decision overturned an excise tax exemption.

"The cost that we would incur are about a quarter of a million dollars," Thorpe said. "We can't afford that."

Senator Chuck Schumer is proposing a federal act to cut the excise tax for craft brewers nearly in half. Several New York legislators will introduce legislation offering tax credits for the industry, brewing in name and size.

About eighty people work at Ommegang's facility.

Ommegang says despite the court ruling, it puts each penny as an ingredient to it's recipe of success.

"It really puts a millstone around our ability to invest in growing our business and employing more people," Thorpe said.

Ommegang is a relatively young brewery, like many others in New York State. It says any assistance from the state or federal levels would help people sample a taste of what they have to offer.

"If we want to have long-term, sustainable job creation, we have to nurture and grow and develop small businesses," Thorpe said.

The Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce says support for craft beer supports tourism and its Beverage Trail through the Upper Susquehanna Valley.

"Anything we can do to help our microbreweries, which really makes it more of a four-season destination," said Patricia Szarpa.

30,000 people pass under Ommegang's archway each year.

"Increasingly, we find that we have people who come here just for the brewery, and then discover the Baseball Hall of Fame," Thorpe said. Szaropa asks, "what better goes with baseball than a wonderful brew at one of our local microbrews?"

Supporters in this region say, it's passage of the Brewer's Employment and Excise Tax Relief Act.

Republican Senator Jim Seward, who represents Otsego County, also supports the proposals.

Statewide, 8,000 people are employed directly through brewing and distribution.