Casey supporting bill to help small breweries like Yards, PBC
There’s little Democrats and Republicans can agree on these days. Sure, they both like “freedom,” they’re both just fine with drone warfare being a thing, and they’ll both probably roll over when the U.S. decides to bomb Syria. But that’s sort of been it.
Until now. As it turns out, bipartisan elected members of the federal government have at least one more thing in common: beer. Specifically, the ever-growing craft brewery industry. A bill re-introduced in May and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) would seek to help them out.
How? It would lower the excise tax on small beer makers and some of those in support of the bill have been gearing up for the fall with a new push for the bill, which would help out brewers from Philly to Pittsburgh to…everywhere.
One of those brewers, Tom Kehoe, president of Yards Brewing Company, publicly supports the bill, and has for a few years, since its original introduction.
“My idea would be to get more people to sell more beer and get more people to work here. Invest in equipment, stuff like that, that’s where that money would go,” Kehoe says.
The details of the legislation are pretty simple. Small brewers are considered those that produce fewer than 2 million barrels of beer per year. They pay a federal excise tax of $7 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels brewed each year. The bill, introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) with 31 Republican and Democrat co-sponsors would cut that in half. It’d also lower the tax on large breweries, from $18 to $16 per barrel.
That would initially mean more money in Yards’ (who brew about 30,000 barrels per year) pockets, which Kehoe says he’d probably use to hire more people at the Delaware Ave. brewery.
“We wouldn’t do a price reduction because nobody on the other end [retailers] would reduce their price, they would just take the profit,” he says. “We’re just going to take it and invest in people here, bottom line, to make more beer. That’s what we’re set up for, because if you’re investing in people that work there, there’s going to be more taxes that government takes in anyhow.”
He adds: “The impact to the brewers will result in making more product by investing in manpower and equipment. That investment translates to employment, and economic growth.”
The bill itself was introduced last session with bipartisan support, too, but never made it for a full vote. It was put together, in part, with the Brewers Association, which is essentially a lobbying group for the small beer industry.
“This legislation is about helping smaller breweries create jobs and compete,” Casey notes in a press release on his website. “This part of our tax code hasn’t been updated since 1976 yet the market has changed drastically.” Casey has previously campaigned for the bill at Allentown Brew Works.
There are now 2,483 craft breweries in the U.S., while there were only 89 total breweries in the whole country in the late 70s, when the small brewery threshold was originally written.
That said, is Kehoe optimistic? Not really. Not yet, at least. Craft brewing, he believes, still has to grow to earn enough clout to get its own bill passed.
“[The Brewers Association] is still tiny, but there are a lot more of us now, and even though there are a lot more of us … we’re still about 5 percent of the volume.”
Randy’s favorite Yards brew is the Jefferson Tavern Ale. You can follow him on Twitter: @RandyLoBasso