Ranks of New York’s alcohol producers double in size

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Andrew Cuomo at the 2014 Long Island Wine and Craft Beverage Tour. (Governor Andrew Cuomo via Flickr)
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The number of alcoholic beverage producers in New York has more than doubled in the last three years, a measure Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration attributes to the easing of post-Prohibition regulations, state promotional efforts and its willingness to “partner” with industry.

The growth has centered in large part around agricultural operations, with the number of farm-based vintners, brewers, distillers and ciderers also increasing 100 percent in the same period, Cuomo’s office said Monday. More and more wineries have sprung up on Long Island, in the Fingers Lakes region and in central New York.

“It’s an investment that is paying off. In the past three years, the number of vineyards in New York state has increased by 50 percent, believe it or not—50 percent,” Cuomo said over the weekend, speaking at the Harvest East End Wine & Food Classic on Long Island. “That means thousands and thousands of more jobs here on Long Island, in the Finger Lakes, in the middle part of the state of New York … where we desperately need employment.”

The governor has cast himself as one of the most booze-friendly chief executives in state history, viewing alcohol as a key element to growing the state’s tourism industry and saving some farmers from financial ruin. His administration has handed out cash—yes, actual grants—to some companies. Beyond cutting red tape here and there, he pledged much broader overhauls that would make is easier for manufactures to offer tastings and sell their own products.

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Cuomo has even become something of team captain for alcohol producers, convening his own summits for state officials, company leaders and trade groups to hash out their future. He’s backed it up to the tune of millions of dollars for marketing and promotions.

And now comes even more money. At the wine event over the weekend, he announced a new advertisement that will start running after Labor Day. It will be followed by an additional $300,000 for marketing, events and transportation services meant to grow tourism around the island’s craft beverage industry.

“We do half a billion dollars per year in wine tourism now,” Cuomo said. “Not just the jobs on the vineyards. So it’s an entirely new industry. It’s en entirely new industry that didn’t exist before and wouldn’t if we didn’t develop it.”

The state, through its “I Love NY” campaign, hopes to reach existing New York City travelers with ads placed through the M.T.A. and the Port Authority, focusing on John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, as well as on the Airtrain and platforms along the Long Island Rail Road. The state hopes to reach international travelers, particularly in Canada, the United Kington, France, Germany, China, Japan and Sweden.

Here are more figures on industry growth from the governor’s press release:


Breweries:

Fifty-seven new farm breweries have opened up across the state as a result of Governor Cuomo’s 2012 Farm Brewery law that went into effect in January 2013. Like farm wineries, farm breweries must use specific levels of locally grown ingredients. Farm breweries enjoy similar privileges to farm wineries, including the ability to open up to five offsite retail outlets, open restaurants, conduct tastings and sell related products, including souvenirs, food to complement beer tastings, and equipment and supplies. As farm breweries continue to open across the state, the demand for locally ingredients has likewise grown.

In addition to the 57 new farm breweries, New York microbreweries continue to experience unprecedented growth. The Empire State is now home to 104 microbreweries, a 160 percent increase from 40 in 2011. Additionally, the number of restaurant brewers or brewpubs, has increased from 10 in 2011 to 33 today, a 230 percent increase.

Wineries:

Since 2011, the number of farm wineries has risen by nearly 50 percent, from 195 in 2011 to 291 today. In addition, the number of Farm Wineries opening branch offices, authorized by legislation signed by Governor Cuomo in 2011, has increased by 90 percent, from 29 in 2011 to 55 today. The number of wineries has also increased by 50 percent, from 52 in 2011 to 78 today.

In addition to this substantial growth, New York’s wineries have also had a banner year in terms of quality. In 2013 alone, wineries in the Empire State won more than 700 awards—the most in any single year in state history.

Cideries:

In October 2013, Governor Cuomo capitalized New York’s designation as the country’s second largest producer of apples to implement legislative changes to further promote this important agricultural industry by creating the Farm Cidery law. The new law, that went into effect on January 15, 2014, has led to the creation of seven new farm cideries. Farm cideries manufacturer cider made exclusively from apples and other pome fruits grown in New York State. Like farm wineries and farm breweries, farm cideries also enjoy additional privileges and are allowed to offer tastings of and sell not only cider, but also beer, wine, and spirits made from New York products. With the addition of the seven new farm cideries, New York is now home to 29 hard cider manufacturers, an increase of 480 percent from 5 in 2011.

Distilleries:

Since 2011, the number of farm distilleries in New York State has increased 450 percent, from 10 in the 2011 to 55 today. In October 2012, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to allow licensed farm distilleries to sell their liquor at the New York State Fair, recognized county fairs, and not-for-profit farmers' markets. This new law is helping local farms to grow by providing distilleries with marketing opportunities previously offered exclusively to licensed wineries, farm wineries, and farm breweries. On May 9, 2014, 34 New York craft distillers participated in the Manhattan Cocktail Classic’s Opening Day Gala at the New York Public Library, one of the spirit industry’s premier events. This is the second straight year that Taste NY has sponsored the NYS Distillery room at the Gala.