Can microbreweries revive the economy? That’s the hope of Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and a bipartisan group of senators who are pushing a plan to cut taxes on the nation’s legion of small brewers in hopes of stimulating hiring among craft brewers.
The plan, which was introduced by Sen. Kerry, would lower the per-barrel excise taxes on small breweries’ first two million barrels of beer per year (that’s 62 million gallons) and would triple the size of what the government classifies as a small brewer — to breweries that produce six million barrels a year from two million currently. Some co-sponsors include Sens. Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), whose states, not surprisingly, rank high on the list of states with the most breweries per capita (see chart below).
So-called craft brewers are one of the few industries to thrive through the recession. The segment grew from 7.2% by volume last year and 5.9% in 2008. The segment has even become a haven for budding entrepreneurs that have been let go from corporate jobs. “There’s not that many success stories in American manufacturing today and craft beer is one of them,” says Jim Koch, founder of The Boston Beer Co. which makes the various Samuel Adams beers. Mr. Koch — whose company is in Mr. Kerry’s home state — has been leading the charge for a lowering of the excise tax on small brewers.
Mr. Kerry’s office estimates that the tax decreases would free-up some $44 million — small potatoes in a $14 trillion economy — that the senator (presumably) hopes would be redirected toward new brewing tanks or hiring new workers. Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware, says lower excise taxes would half his $750,000 federal tax bill. “It could be employees or capital equipment, but it would all go toward growing the company,” he says.
We do have one quibble. Mr. Kerry’s press release states that “Massachusetts started the small craft beer revolution,” but many other historians say that the current craft brew renaissance has its origins in Northern California, where San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing and the short-lived New Albion Co. kickstarted the movement in the ’60s and ’70s.
My main quibble is why is the assumption that any extra revenue would be reinvested and not taken as profit? The idea that a tax break means more workers hired is silly. The number of workers are the result of the optimal number needed to produce the beer demanded by the market. I made this same argument when Measures 66 & 67 were being debated. In any case here is the cool interactive chart:
Number of Brewers, by State
|State||Total Brewers||State Residents per Brewer|