Americans spent nearly three times as much money on beer last year than they did on water. And while overall beer sales grew during that period at a rate of 1.9 percent, craft
beer sales grew at a rate of 2.9 percent. In fact, regional craft breweries accounted for 73 percent of craft beer industry production volume last year.
If you’ve spent time sampling craft beverages in the Hudson Valley recently, the proof has been right in front of you, with local breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries thriving all over the region. From longtime juggernaut Captain Lawrence to new breweries like 2-Way in Beacon, with every variety of product and company size in between, we are an economic powerhouse driving significant industry growth.
As craft beer trails begin to crisscross over longstanding wine trails, let’s remember that New York also boasts 385 wineries — fourth most in the nation. New York has also risen to become one of the top five states in the country for craft distilleries. Thirty-six percent of all craft spirits are distilled in New York, California, Colorado, Texas or Washington.
Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery has even opened a tasting room hosting live music at the popular Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, an internationally renowned retail destination well-known for the tastemaking and trendsetting brands it features and host to millions of tourists from around the world.
These are primarily independently owned operations that are not just basing their operations here, but hiring here and even sourcing their raw materials and other essential needs from local businesses. All things that the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. loves to see — and support.
When HVEDC recognized the potential for the craft beverage industry to boom in the region, we launched the Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Alliance to connect regional craft beverage companies with each other and a wide spectrum of resources including, financial guidance, distributors, marketing, management training and more. HVEDC also strongly lobbied for the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council to include craft beverage production as a focus in its original five-year strategic plan and ongoing strategy, as well as launched a major advertising, marketing and public relations campaign that effectively positioned the Hudson Valley as the craft beverage epicenter of New York. As a reflection of this massive effort, HVEDC was honored last year with an Excellence Award for its efforts by the International Economic Development Council.
Yet, we never overlooked the entrepreneurs themselves. That’s why we started the Bet on My Business Academy two years ago, which is HVEDC’s executive education program for food and beverage entrepreneurs, combining intense classroom experiences with job shadowing to directly assist craft beverage producers with expanding their businesses. The program recently graduated its second promising group this year, and the ripple effect from this laser-like approach to education will pay benefits for years to come.
This year also marks our fifth annual Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit. The event, coming up on Oct. 12, features a full schedule of educational panels and networking opportunities for craft beverage entrepreneurs. Expected to draw hundreds of attendees, it will have a strong focus on providing craft beverage entrepreneurs with the tools needed to expand their businesses.
HVEDC prides itself on being able to connect regional entrepreneurs with influential and pioneering figures in their industries. This year, our keynote speaker is Tom Potter, co-founder and president of New York Distilling Co. in Brooklyn, one of America’s premier craft distilleries. Potter also co-founded industry juggernaut Brooklyn Brewery in 1987.
The couple behind the rapidly growing national brand Carolla Drinks will also join us. Comedian Adam Carolla and wife Lynette will take part in a one-on-two interview, sharing their strategies for launching and growing a signature brand using the latest in digital media combined with boots-on-the-ground resources.
These past five years have been a period of exciting growth for the craft beverage industry in the Hudson Valley. Congratulations and thanks are in order for those craft beverage makers who have established and grown their brands here during this exciting period. HVEDC remains committed to supporting the industry and we hope to continue inspiring other local economic development groups and related organizations to join in and share their resources as well. It’s exactly the kind of growth to which I think we should all raise a glass.
Laurence P. Gottlieb is the president and CEO of Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. in Goshen. He can be reached at email@example.com.