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Small BREW Act could help local microbreweries

Small BREW Act could help local microbreweries

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Craft breweries are becoming more popular in the Twin Tiers and across the country.

According the Brewers Association, the industry grew by 15-percent between 2011 and 2012. But lawmakers on Capitol Hill say there’s something holding them back from really being able to compete with the big names in beer.

Right now, small breweries like Horseheads Brewing and Ithaca Beer Company pay an excise tax of $7 per barrel. You’re considered a small brewery if you brew fewer than two million barrels a year.

But Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) says those guidelines have been the same since 1976. And since then, the beer industry has grown significantly.  So he’s co-sponsoring The Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, also known as the Small BREW Act.

The Small BREW Act would redefine small breweries as producing six million barrels a year, and cut the excise tax in half -- $3.50 -- for their first 60,000 barrels produced.

Casey says it would help small breweries compete with big-name beer producers. He also cited a study from Harvard University.

“This study showed it would create many hundreds of jobs every year, and initially, in the thousands,” said Casey. “[Small breweries are] a huge part of the economy of our state, as well as the country.”

Jason Lavery founded Lavery Brewing Company in Erie, Pennsylvania a few years ago and just opened a pub to serve his beers.

“It would be a huge thing for our pocket books as far as hiring new employees and being able to expand our hours and things like that,” said Lavery.

Right now, the Small BREW Act has 32 co-sponsors in the Senate – Democrat and Republican – including Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.