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    Growth in craft beer industry to be discussed at local conference

    Owner of Hopshire Farm and Brewery, Randy Lacey, pouring one of the company’s craft beers.

    Roughly an hour away from Ithaca, homebrewers, owners of microbreweries and those interested in opening brewing businesses will gather at a craft beer conference the weekend of March 27th to discuss the business side of the beer industry.

    The Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension is hosting the Finger Lakes Craft Beer Conference at the Holiday Inn in Waterloo, NY, where 36 presentations will be displayed over the course of two days for people who are interested in starting up their own brewery, cidery, or winery. The goal of the conference is to help start-ups, Derek Simmonds, an Agriculture Economic Development Specialist at CCE, said.

    “There was little information available for people wanting to start a brewery and cidery. The reason for the Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Conference is that the brewery, cidery and distillery industry is growing quickly, especially in the Finger Lakes Region,” Simmonds said.

    Along with people interested in opening a brewery, already established companies and their representatives will also be attending the conference to offer advice to other brewers. Ithaca Beer Company, considered to be a regional microbrewery because of the range of their sales into other states, is one of the businesses that will be at the event.   At the conference, one of the main focus points for presentations will be on how start-up breweries can go about handling sales and distribution Gregg Stacy, marketing director at IBC said.

    “We grew 39 percent last year, and we’ve seen 20 to 25 percent growth every year since we started [in 1998],” Stacy said. “At the conference, we want to give insight for smaller and start-up breweries on how to market and distribute themselves better.”

    Hopshire Farm and Brewery of Freeville, N.Y. will also be at the conference to offer advice to other brewers on creating an effective business plan. Randy Lacey, co-owner of Hopshire said if he is able to help people understand the complicated process in just one day, he’ll feel successful.

    “There’s no place you can go where there’s a checklist that says to open a brewery you need this license and this license and this tax registration and all the things you need,” Lacey said. “There’s a lot of ways to start a brewery and lose money, so I just help people with that.”

    According to the national Brewers’ Association website, while the overall sale of beer dropped 1.9 percent in 2013, craft beer sales grew 17.2 percent in the same year with their sales totaling $14.3 billion.

    In the same year in New York, craft beer brought in $2.19 million in sales with over 850,000 barrels of craft beer being produced. The state’s breweries ranked third in the country in terms of their economic impact, Paul Leone, executive director of New York’s Brewers’ Association said.

    “Craft beer is exploding right now because it’s what the customer wants,” Leone said. “We’ve gone from 85 breweries in the state just 5 years ago to 207 today. We’re opening a brewery… every ten days in NYS and that trend will easily continue into the next few years without any worry about saturation at all.”

    Although Ithaca Beer Company and Hopshire Farm and Brewery are two different local breweries with a different market-base, there is a sense of collaboration between the companies both Lacey and Stacy said.

    “People are just very helpful,” Lacey said, “It’s a great community of people.”

    “In one sense, everyone is a competitor. We’re all pulling together though in Upstate NY so we’re apart of team. It’s friendly competition,” Stacy said.


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