A popular craft brewery in Armory Square hopes to bottle its beer for the first time in its 20-year history with an expanded farm and bottling facility in Cazenovia. Empire Brewing Company owns 22 acres of land off Route 13, and wants to grow the hops and barley there to make more beer in order to meet increasing demand.
The beer would then be sold in grocery stores across the state. Senator Chuck Schumer paid a visit Monday and promised to push the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve a $200,000 grant to plant the seeds of expansion at the “Empire Farmstead Brewery.” But he says it goes far beyond just one brewery.
"[The] new farm will be a hub for agritourism and education. And guess who's also going to come and learn all about the brewing industry? Our students from SUNY Morrisville, which is our agriculture college in the SUNY system. So it's really going to help create Central New York as a hub for craft brewing. "
David Katleski is owner of the Empire Brewing Company and president of the New York State Brewers Association.
"If you look at the craft beer market share, we're at about an 8% market share. Oregon's at a 38% market share, Colorado is at a 28% market share , even Vermont is close to a 30% market share. So we as New York state have a lot further to grow."
He says there has been growth since the mid 1990’s, when empire was one of only 10 craft breweries in New York State. Now there are more than 160, and another 100 or so are in the planning stages.
But what about over-saturation of the market and impact on big-name breweries? Senator Schumer says he actually talked to Anheuser Busch and parent company In-bev, which runs a plant in Baldwinsville.
"You know what Budweiser said? Their main competition are not the craft brewers. Their main competition is wine and distilled spirits and things like that. So the more interest there is in beer, the better for them."
Empire Brewery's David Katleski says a study shows New York State's economic "threshold of pain" is 777 craft breweries before having a significant effect on large breweries. Schumer says beer distributors are also happy because it means more business for them. If Empire Brewery gets the USDA grant, Katleski says he’d have to hire at least 50 more people.