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What’s a Farm Brewery?


Last month, Governor Cuomo’s office announced a $55 million budget for tourism and craft beverage in 2017.  This is a $5 million increase from 2016 and the largest amount of funds allocated to tourism in NYS history.  Empire’s new farm brewery in Cazenovia has become a premier argitourism destination in Central New York and has been made in a large part through the support of New York state.

Yesterday, Empire Farm Brewery welcomed the Lieutenant Governor and other state officials to celebrate the opening of the state’s largest Farm Brewery.  Owner, David Katleski, thanked all parties involved in the project and it brought to light how many pieces made up the larger puzzle of opening a brewery of Empire’s size through the farm brewery legislation.

Since the law went into effect in January 2013 over 100 breweries have opened under this licensing.  The legislation has stimulated massive growth in all aspects of the brewing industry.  It was created in partnership with the state liquor authority to eliminate arbitrary post-probation laws, streamline regulations, and eliminate the need for a separate license to sample and sell manufactured beer.  The law also gives farm breweries the ability to buy and sell beer, wine, liquor and cider from other businesses under the NYS farm legislation.

The farm brewery law was modeled after the Farm Winery Act of 1976, which spurred the growth of wine production in the state, including the creation of 261 farm wineries and tripling the number of wineries.  To be licensed under the farm brewery law in accordance with the Department of Ag. and Markets, beer must be made with primarily NYS ingredients.  The current standings to meet these provisions is 20% hops and 20% all other ingredients must be grown in NYS.  Increasing twice until 2024 when 90% hops and 90% of all other ingredients need to be grown in state to meet requirements.  This law is not only opening breweries but creating a serious demand for NYS ingredients like hops, barley and rye.

Demand has been met with the creation of over 200 acres of hop yards in New York over the past four years. The Cornell Cooperative Extension has made great strides in studying how to grow hops in NY zoning climates and works to assist farmers statewide through site visits and information sharing online.  Prior to the passage of the legislation there were few farmers that grew malting barley, but in June 2015 Cornell reported 8 operating malt houses and 32 farmers growing the crop.

In the widespread growth of farm breweries there has been positive economic development, tourism and job growth throughout the state, and governmental support on the state level has been a driving force.  Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul stated yesterday at the Empire Farm Brewery, “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 areas like this. But also it sends the message that this is an area that is rebounding.”  Cheers to continued success in the NYS craft!

empirebrewing2Find further coverage of the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony here.