By R.J. DeLuke
Craft brewing is on the rise in New York state and around the country, not just beer, but wine and other spirits.
According to the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, there are more than 100 craft beer breweries in the state. They are expanding and growing in the the Glens Falls and Saratoga region.
“There is no doubt that New York State’s craft beer industry is flourishing and growing to produce some of the best brews enjoyed around the country and even worldwide,” Cuomo has said in a news release, noting that they are “a significant sector in our agricultural and tourism industries, and when they do well, our economy does well.”
With that as a backdrop, the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce this year took steps to capitalize on it.
Greg Chanese, marketing and communications manager for the chamber, said the germination of the idea came because ARCC had 13 members who were craft beverage producers, either beer, wine, distilled spirits makers and one cider maker in Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga counties.
“We’ve seen across the country these tours popping up” and saw there was a lot of tourism revenue associated with them, he said. They saw a need to “get those craft beverage enthusiasts to come here” and spend the tourism dollars in the area.
ARCC got to work on the idea and in April formed the Adirondack Craft Beverage Committee, comprised of people in the craft brew industry, the hospitality industry and graphic designers. The result was the development of the 2014 Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail and Map.
“It’s a connector to all the craft brewers in the region,” Chanese said. Recently, the ARCC led a group on the tour.
The beverage trail map is designed by Jesse Tyree’s Glens Falls firm Black Dog Designs, includes a north route and a south route, covering locations in Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties.
“These are expansive tours,” Chanese said. Also included are stops along the way — shops, restaurants, hotels. “People can stop along the way and see what’s going on in that region.”
It benefits the major tourist areas people generally know about, but also introduces them to areas “they might not be expecting to see” like Fort Ann, Granville, Argyle, Corinth and others “that they might not visit otherwise.
“It’s an opportunity for businesses in those areas to take advantage of people driving through (on the beverage tour) or coming through on the bus tours.”
Icehouse Limousine, a partner in the project, will run bus tours on the routes.
The primary sponsor is Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center. It’s not only a central location and a good place to start or end the tour, “but they’re looking in the next couple years to have their own distillery. So they’ll actually be a part of it,” Chanese said. The other major sponsor is the Northeast Promotional Group in South Glens Falls.
Chanese said the tour is going to have cards for participants that will be stamped at each stop. When the card is full with stamps from all the participants, the holder will get a free commemorative mug from the Northeast Promotional Group.
“When people look at this map, they are shocked,” Chanese said. “The say, ‘I didn’t know this was there.’ Now you’re going to go there. Now you have interest and now you’re going to go to see what’s there.”
Chanese said the chamber also submitted a consolidated funding application to Empire State Development Corp. for a grant to expand the project next year with a mobile device app that will guide people through the map and have a number interactive features as well.
The ARCC in July conducted an inaugural tour visiting most of the beer, wine, cider and distilled spirits makers on the map. On the tour was Samuel Filler, Empire State Development director of industry development and strategic development and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s craft beverage industry liaison.
The maps have been distributed to some 300 locations in the Capital District and are also available at the ARCC office, 136 Glen St., Glens Falls.
In June, Cuomo announced an agreement with state legislative leaders on a bill that will continue to support the growing craft beverage industry by cutting burdensome requirements placed on producers and rolling back restrictions regarding the marketing of craft products.
It would provide New York manufacturers with greater opportunities to market their products, including allowing producers to serve “by the bottle” and “by the glass” as well as permitting farm distilleries to increase the retail outlets where they can sell and offer samples of their products. In addition, it reduces costs for small manufacturers by permitting them to produce more of their product at lower fees.
The legislation is a result of the State’s second Wine, Beer, Spirits, and Cider Summit, held this past April. The Summit brought the farm-based beverage sector together with agricultural producers and government officials in an effort to find ways to support the rapid growth of New York’s beverage industry.
According to the governor’s office, craft manufacturers experienced “unprecedented growth over the past three years.” The number of microbreweries has risen from 40 in 2011 to 100 in 2014, a jump of 150 percent.
“New York state recognizes that the booming growth of the beverage industry means more jobs and economic activity, and we are proud to continue our support by rolling back burdensome restrictions and enabling producers to sell more, at a lower price,” Cuomo said.
Chanese also issued the caution that people on the tour should drink responsibly and not put themselves and others at risk. Having a designated driver is a good idea, or “people can arrange with Icehouse Limousine to be picked up,” he said.
Photo Courtesy Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce