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New York State breweries break record set in 1876

The record-breaking brewery boom has huge benefits for New York, beyond providing more options at the bar.
brooklyn brewery, beer, new york beer, new york breweries, beer nyc
Brooklyn Brewery, which was founded in 1987, helped revitalize the Williamsburg area, Paul Leone said. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons / Rasmus Zwickson

If you needed a special reason to grab a pint, here’s something worth raising a glass to: There are now more breweries in New York state than ever before in its history, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo announced the news about the brewery boom this week, citing state liquor license data that shows there are 400 breweries throughout New York. That’s above the last record high of 393 breweries set in 1876.

Paul Leone, executive director of the New York State Brewers Association, said that the state’s beer industry will only continue to grow, reaching, he expects, 500 or more within the next two years.

“Last year, a brewery opened an average of every six days in New York state,” he said. “The start of this year doesn’t seem to be slowing that down at all.”

Beer is a big part of the state’s history. The first commercial brewery ever in Colonial America opened in Manhattan, then called New Amsterdam, in 1632.

But the big surge in breweries has been pretty recent. When Leone was hired as the (first) executive director of the brewers association, there were less than 200 breweries across the state.

“It’s amazing to me that it’s gone from the number of breweries a few years ago to 400 now and climbing,” he said. “Legislatively in New York, we have some of the most brewer-friendly laws, more so than anywhere else in country. … That’s a big part of why you see that growth.”

The brewers association helps enact this legislation, and Leone thanked the Cuomo administration for the benefits, like reducing red tape and allowing the ability to sell beer by the glass in tasting rooms.

In Jan. 2013, Cuomo’s farm brewery law went into effect, which experts in the industry also site as a catalyst for growth. If you have a farm brewing license, Leone explained, you have to have a minimum of New York state-grown ingredients in your beer, and then that opens you up to other privileges.

“You have to buy New York, so what that’s done is revitalize the hop industry and barley industry [here],” he said. “The agriculture side of beer has really exploded in New York state. A few years ago we had no malt houses in the state, now we have 13.”

This is another example of the way the brewery industry benefits entire communities, beyond the local beer lover. Breweries in small upstate towns as well as in Brooklyn warehouses revitalize their neighborhoods, bring other businesses like restaurants to the area and create jobs.

Before this news, New York was fourth out of all 50 states in terms of highest total number of breweries and fourth for largest economic impact of breweries overall (breweries here have contributed $4 billion to the state’s economy).

Reaching 400 breweries may have pushed us up to number three, Leone said.

So out of all this beer, what type are New Yorkers brewing and consuming most?

“We grow a lot of hops in New York, so IPAs are by far the most popular style,” Leone said. “But I can tell you in New York, because it’s a large state and such a diverse state, there’s a lot of unique beers being brewed in every region.”