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New state law aims to level playing field for craft brewers

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Albany/HV: New state law aims to level playing field for craft brewers
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By most accounts, New York's craft beer industry is booming and a new state law figures to keep the suds flowing well into the future. YNN's Matt Hunter has more on why local brewers believe the playing field is starting to even out against international manufacturers.

NEW YORK STATE – Like any industry, craft beer ebbs and flows, but most brewers will tell you they're currently in the midst of a business boom.

"I think the industry as a whole is seeing that where consumers are looking for non-mass produced items and seeking them out," said John Carr, owner of the Adirondack Brewery in Lake George.

“It’s really fantastic,” said Max Oswald, the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company’s general sales manager. “The whole craft industry is booming, our business is booming.”

In recent decades, the number of breweries across the state and country has jumped tenfold. At the same time, the number of distributors has shrunk, leaving regional companies that once handled a small number of breweries with a bustling portfolio that still includes influential national brands.

"It’s sort of just the natural order,” Oswald said. “You sort of fall down to the lower level because there’s a loyalty."

It's because of that trend that state lawmakers passed a new law, which took effect this week, that's designed to give small breweries more flexibility. If a brewer accounts for less than three percent of their distributor's total business and isn't satisfied, they're free to break that contract and leave by paying a fee.

"It helps us level the playing field a little bit with the larger breweries that tend to have a lot of influence over the distributors in how the distributors sell products," Carr said.

Executives at both the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company and Adirondack Brewery in Lake George say they have no plans to leave their current distributor, Decrescente Distributing in Mechanicville, but believe the change in law gives small brewers more leverage and a better chance at success.

"No one gets hurt but the opportunity is there now to more easily get out of a situation that isn’t right and everyone comes out whole," Oswald said.

"We are a small local business that's trying to compete for the same shelf place they are and I think this helps make it more even and level the playing field a bit for us," Carr said.

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