Legislation would boost local breweries
Nearly half the cost of brewing at the fledgling Henniker Brewing Co. goes toward state and federal taxes, founder Dave Currier said.
But Rep. Annie Kuster has recently been touring local breweries like Currier’s and touting legislation that could cut federal excise taxes in half for small breweries in their first years of business.
“What I hope to do is create jobs and economic development by giving these small brewers the opportunity to compete,” Kuster said in a phone interview.
The Small BREW Act would drop the federal excise tax from $7 to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for small breweries that produce less than 6 million barrels per year.
“The idea behind that is to help them get started, get established, get known with the local brand,” Kuster said.
For Henniker Brewing, Currier said extra money would go toward starting to can his beer in addition to bottling it, hiring more employees and developing more brews.
“It would be an economic boon, because starting up a brewery is not cheap,” Currier said. “Every penny that you don’t have to send to the state or the federal government would be used in developing this local business.”
Henniker Brewing Co. will mark the anniversary of its first barrels brewed in December, and head brewer Chris Shea said he expects to cap the year at 700 barrels.
In a few years, Shea said the brewery is aiming to produce between 5,000 and 7,500 barrels a year.
“We came into it with a very direct goal, with wanting to do something great for our town, great for New Hampshire, that will build community,” Shea said.
Twenty-six craft breweries operate in New Hampshire, and Henniker Brewing Co. Marketing Director Ryan Maiola said the industry continues to grow steadily in New England and across the state.
“Vermont, Maine, they’re much further ahead than New Hampshire is in terms of the whole entire craft beer scene,” Maiola said. “But New Hampshire’s catching up in a hurry with places like us opening up. So you see more people that are turning away from generic to try out some new local stuff, (saying) ‘Oh, I’ve heard of Henniker, that’s right down the road. I’m going to give that a try.’ ”
Kuster visited Henniker Brewing Co. last month, and she made a similar stop at the Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon last month.
Starting a brewery “is a pretty high level of investment early on in terms of buying all the machinery and everything you need to create a successful business,” Kuster said. “It’s really taken off at a local level.”
And a company like Henniker Brewing, she said, is an example of the way an upstart craft brewery can become a strong local business.
“The label is ‘The only Henniker on Earth,’ ” she said. “It gets the name out, and it gets the sense out of buying local.”
In New Hampshire, breweries pay the state a tax of 30 cents per gallon, or $10.80 per barrel, in addition to the federal excise tax. The most recent version of the bill to cut that federal tax is now before the House Ways and Means Committee, where an earlier version died in 2011.
There are more than 2,400 craft breweries nationwide.
“They all want it to be successful,” Kuster said. “This (legislation) will give them a boost, a shot in the arm.”
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)