On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation implementing two refundable tax credits structured to support small-batch breweries based in New York, and creating a new classification of breweries in the state – farm breweries. It's a move that bodes well for the East End, where in the past three years alone, three microbreweries have opened their doors in the area, and is brewing for another on Sound Avenue.
Though the state-wide legislation possesses production restrictions for eligibility, all of Long Island's breweries exist within the requirements of one or both mandated tax credits.
South Erie Avenue's , and stakes its claim as the East End's oldest microbrewery, in business since 1996.
"It's definitely good news," said Joe Sullivan, one of three East Hampton High grads operating Montauk Brewing. "We're still small right now, so we're not quite as affected as some of the larger breweries. But it still definitely affects us."
The tax credits signed into law on Wednesday permits breweries – with an annual production of 60 million gallons or less – a 14-cent-per-gallon reimbursement, and excuses any brewery creating 1,500 barrels of beer (the equivalent of 46,500 gallons) or less from paying an annual state registration fee of $150 per label.
For Montauk, this means that as it continues to test different styles to see what works and what doesn't, that's an extra $150 in their coffers each time they try something new.
To the north and west, brewers on the North Fork and in Riverhead touted the bill's signing as a victory for the industry as well.
"The tax credit situation is a winner for everyone in craft beer," said Greg Doroski, assistant brewer of . Founded by John Liegey and Richard Vandenburgh in 2009, the brewery for 2013 and will double annual capacity with a 30-barrel brewhouse.
"It allows us to create new jobs and keep beer at a reasonable price," said Doroski. "It also promotes creativity, because we can keep making different beers without worrying about the annual fee for each one."
Greg Martin, who opened with Dan Burke and after contract brewing in New York and Connecticut, affirmed the new legislation's benefit for Long Island breweries.
"The credits help everyone on Long Island, from guys starting out, to Blue Point Brewing Company, who are distributing across the United States," Martin said. "It's good to see the state do the right thing and recognize craft beer as a successful and growing industry."
Accompanying the tax credits, Cuomo's signature also creates a within beer. To obtain a farmers license, a mandatory percentage of ingredients (at least 20 percent of hops and 20 percent of all other contents by end of 2018, for example, and no less than 90 percent by January 1, 2024) must be grown or produced in New York. It will enable farm breweries to open restaurants and sell state-labeled beer, wine and liquor at its retail outlets.
"This is all about promoting New York State-grown agriculture products," said Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, in March. "In an area like the North Fork, this is going to be even more of an economic driver."
The farm brewery license is a new classification – separate from a microbrewery license – and is not applicable to existing breweries. Existing breweries can now apply for a farm brewery license, however, as licenses must be renewed each year. Though some brewers haven't needed the incentives, opting to go local already.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company grows three hop varieties (Centennial, Nugget, and Santiam) at Wesnofske Farms in Peconic. Doroski, who helped plant the hops, believes "it is an exciting and creative time for craft brewers in New York."
"It's too early to tell the results of using only a specific region's ingredients in a beer, but the new bills are indicative of New York's support of local products," he said.