Capital Region’s Craft Beverage Industry Pours Past 200 Licenses, 700 Jobs
The Capital Region’s number of active licenses issued for breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries and meaderies has increased by more than 20 percent over the past two years, and their employment growth is even more robust according to the Center for Economic Growth’s biennial survey of the regional craft industry.
As of August 2023, the New York State Liquor Authority’s databases listed 201 active licenses1 for breweries, wineries, distilleries, cideries and meaderies in the eight-county Capital Region. That was an increase of 37 craft beverage licensees (22.6 percent) since CEG’s last survey in August 2021.
Regionwide, there were licenses for 97 breweries, 52 wineries, 38 distilleries, 10 cideries and four meaderies. Wineries saw the fastest growth over the two-year period, increasing by 17 (48.6 percent). It was followed by breweries, which increased by 13 (15.5 percent).
Columbia County stood out in the region for craft beverage growth during the 2021-2023 period. At 42 active licenses, Columbia County surpassed Albany County for most craft beverage licenses and it passed Saratoga County for the most winery licenses. Albany County still led the region for its number of brewery (21) and meadery (2) licenses. Columbia County had the most distillery (10), winery (14) and cidery (4) licenses.
In 2022, Capital Region breweries, distilleries and wineries employed 744 workers, up 25.7 percent from the previous year. The industry has more than doubled in size since 2018. Capital Region craft beverage producer annual wages totaled $24.6 million in 2022, up 37.2 percent from the previous year, according to New York State Department Labor data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
Nearly two-thirds (510) of those 744 craft beverage workers were employed in the breweries industry. The number of brewery jobs increased by 74 (64.3 percent) to 189 in Saratoga County and by 27 (31 percent) to 114 in Columbia County.
Business Growth Solutions (BGS): Leveraging its status as a Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP center), CEG is assisting local craft beverage producers, such as Albany Distilling, by improving their ability to make sales (Sandler Leadership Training and Sandler Customized Reinforcement Selling), reach foreign markets (ExporTech), utilize Lean Accounting, and obtain National Grid and Workforce Development Institute grants for training and equipment.
CEG has also partnered with SUNY Schenectady to develop a brewer/distiller apprenticeship program for Capital Region craft beverage producers such as Albany Distilling, Frog Alley Brewing, and Rare Form Brewing.
1 The region also has 18 producers with a combined craft manufacturing license. These 18 licenses are excluded from the tally, though the separate craft manufacturing licenses covered under them are counted.
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