Cuomo announces new regs to help boost craft beer industry

Long Ireland Brewery co-owner Greg Martin (center) harvests hop cones with assistant brewers Liam Hudcock (left) and Fred Keller at Condzella Farm in Wading River in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)
Long Ireland Brewery co-owner Greg Martin (center) harvests hop cones with assistant brewers Liam Hudcock (left) and Fred Keller at Condzella Farm in Wading River in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Shortly after announcing that New York State was loosening some of its restrictions on wineries, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will do the same for craft brewers.

Following a Wine, Beer, Spirits and Cider Summit held in April with members of the alcoholic beverage industry, the governor said in a statement Monday that current laws are indeed too restrictive, even offering a disincentive for businesses to grow, lest they incur additional licensing fees.

The bill eliminates an additional permit required for breweries that want to offer pint tastings or sell growlers on site. In addition, the bill — which hasn’t been approved, but is expected to be by the end of the week — increases the production cap for small producers, though it wasn’t immediately clear by how much.

The announcement was the governor’s most recent in a string of legislative measures hoping to boost the burgeoning craft beer industry.

And local brewers are toasting to that.

“Ideally, these end up creating less paperwork and lowering licensing fees,” said Greg Martin, co-owner of Riverhead’s Long Ireland Beer Company. “It’s definitely helping.”

He said his brewery currently has to have three separate licenses to brew beer, sell pints on site and sell growlers for off-premises consumption. Legislation announced by the governor would streamline that by reducing the number of licenses required to offer the same services.

Richard Vandenburgh, co-owner of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, welcomed the change.

“For me, the added savings all add up and allow us to invest back into our business and employees and our capital infrastructure. Giving us the ability to get away from the process of doing the paperwork and the monthly plowing of returns — that’s where the sweet spot us for us.”

The legislation also proposes to lower the food requirement that manufacturers must meet when offering tastings or alcohol consumption on their premises, officials said.

It would also allow farm distilleries to operate a branch location, according to the governor’s office.

This week’s announcement follows last year’s creation of a farm brewery license, a special designation of breweries which have to use a certain percentage of New York-grown ingredients — and receive added incentives for doing so. The idea is to support additional industries beyond brewers themselves — namely, farmers who could grow ingredients such as the barley and hops to use in locally brewed beer.

Mr. Vandenburgh said that the most recent legislation announced may provide less of an incentive to seek the farm brewery license, though he noted that overall, “the compass is heading in the right direction” when speaking about alcoholic beverage regulation.

“This bill would provide New York manufacturers with greater opportunities to market their products, including allowing producers to serve ‘by the bottle’ and ‘by the glass’ as well as permitting farm distilleries to increase the retail outlets where they can sell and offer samples of their products,” a release from the governor stated. “In addition, this bill would reduce costs for small manufacturers by permitting them to produce more of their product at lower fees.”

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