April 9, 2016
Grants help tap profits from beer
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Taps for five New York state beers from four micro breweries are shown at The Finger Lakes Tasting Room at 31 Main St., Cortland. Left to right are Brown from Davidson Brothers in Glens Falls, Hop House from Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, Floras from Bacchus Brewery in Dryden, Beehave from Hopshire Farms in Dryden and Rare Vos from Ommegang.
Dylan Scinta slapped the menu down on the bar at the Finger Lakes Tasting Room on Main Street in Cortland. More than a dozen beers, all from New York, some from so close that he can take delivery with a straw.
A marketing program by the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board could make his job so much easier.
The $30,000 request for proposals would fund a branding program to promote beers from Cortland, Chenango, Otsego, Delaware, Broome, Tioga, Tompkins and Schoharie counties, including Cortland Beer Co. in Cortland, Hopshire Farms and Brewery in Freeville and Bacchus Brewing Co. in Dryden.
“Thirty thousand isn’t an awful lot of money,” said Erik Miller, a senior planner with Southern Tier East. “But it gets everyone on the same page to look at the bigger picture.”
Brewers often are so focused on creating their own products and building their business they can sometimes lose sight of the benefits of a neighbor’s success, he said.
“You don’t want to see people fail, because that could be you,” said Dan Cleary, an owner of Cortland Beer Co. “But the market changes fast. It’s going to need to correct itself.”
It’s something Scinta is aware of. He offers, for example, both Hopshire and Bacchus products on tap. “The Bacchus Floras has that fruitiness that’s popular in summer,” said Scinta, who does the promotion for Finger Lakes Tasting Room. “When people hear it has flowery notes or a hoppy flavor, they want to try it.”
And maybe next time they’ll try a Hopshire beer, or maybe one from Ommegang, Butternuts or Cortland Beer Co. There are enough brewers that the business rotates its taps frequently. In fact, Scinta pulls out a few of the hundred or so beer taps under the counter.
“New York state now has over207 craft beverage operations, with the majority having opened in the past three years,” the regional planning agency says on its web site. “The number of producers is projected to potentially increase by 15 percent per annum for the next 10 years. We have a great opportunity right now to position the Southern Tier as a leader in the craft beverage market and as an entry point to New York state craft beer, cider, and wine.”
Hence, the need for marketing. The $30,000 marketing program has these goals:
l Develop a recognizable brand to boost both producers and the farmers that grow the hops, malt and other ingredients for craft beer.
l Create media tools — websites, social media platforms, other advertising content — that support the brand.
l Find a way to evaluate success.
The project would need to align with I Love New York marketing and encourage tourism.
The larger goal isn’t a string of TV spots or magazine ads — it’s a tool so that marketing companies know who the customers are, and brewers know some of their options, Miller said. And by getting everyone to work together, it opens the lot of them to more funding from the I Love New York campaign and other sources.
“This is in order to get these guy on the radar for tourism dollars,” he said. “It’s about being a destination. There’s a huge potential here.”
The marketing is part of a larger plan that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported for years to re-establish the beer industry in New York, which grew to a$3.5 billion economic effect in 2014 and more than 6,500 jobs statewide.
In fact Hopshire Farms got a $50,000 state grant late last year to expand its production facility, and hops farmers have seen incentives that encouraged them to expand their fields to more than250 acres in 2014, up from 15 acres in 2010.
“New York has made it extremely easy to open a brewery,” said Cleary, who gets most of his grain from Dryden and his hops from Rochester. He predicts 300 brewers by the end of the year. “Even Budweiser and their like coming out with their craft beer helps. It may just be session beer, but it’s a step up.”
“The breweries are just making attempts and seeing what works,” Scinta said. “They’re seeing what people like.”
In fact, that’s part of Finger Lakes Tasting Room’s purpose, said owner Shannon Terwilliger. It’s also a branch office of Lost Kingdom Brewery and Firehouse Distillery in Ovid.
And they’re taking advantage of the state incentives and requirements that boost the agriculture industry, too. A 2012 state law gives financial incentives to brewers who use at least 20 percent New York-grown hops, growing to 90 percent by 2025.
Hopshire Farm’s Beehave, which Scinta points out he has on tap, for example, combines barley from Canastota, honey from Moravia and hops from Lansing. “Most people when they know good beers are going for a craft beer,” he said.
“One of our biggest problems is making sure the growers and providers have a relationship with the brewers,” Miller said. This program would help make that easier.
But even quality needs a helping hand. Scinta says most of the marketing the tasting room does is low-budget: “It’s social media. And because this is a small town, it’s a lot of word-of-mouth.”
It’s much the same for Cortland Beer Co., Cleary said. That’s why the Southern Tier East plan can make a difference.
“These guys work together,” Miller said. “They help each other out. They want each other to succeed.”
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