Proposed tax cut could benefit Bay Area craft breweries

Evan Axelbank reports

- Congress seems to have trouble agreeing on anything, but they might make it happen for a cause most can get behind - beer. 

A proposed tax cut for smaller operations could change the game for many of the Bay Area's 63 craft breweries. 

When you start brewing beer in a garage like Kent Bailey did, a brewery with giant tanks and 28 employees is a dream come true.

"For the last three years, I have had more fun that I ever had in my life."

His brewery, Coppertail, in Ybor City, sells 10,000 barrels a year, from Key West to Pensacola. Right now, he pays $7 per barrel to the federal government in an excise tax, or a tax on a specific good.

But that $7 hits small brewers hardest.

"The [big breweries] can brew their beer for far less money than it costs me," Bailey said.

In an effort to help, Congress is hoping to reduce the excise tax on small brewers to $3.50. At 10,000 barrels a year, that's an extra $35,000 he can use to add to his team of 28.

"I would hire more people, I would hire more brewers and try to make more beer and sell more beer," Bailey said.

Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, 3 Daughters Brewing has 53 employees and sells 14,000 barrels a year. The reduced excise tax would save the brewery nearly $50,000.

"That is enough for us to put one more salesperson on the street," said Mike Harting of 3 Daughters Brewing.

In Tampa Bay, says the number of breweries has grown to 63, with 16 still slated to open. Yet, 3 Daughters says less than 3-percent of all the beer sold in Tampa Bay is craft, but any little opening helps them live their dream.

"If we can get that bar outside of Orlando to carry just one craft and see that there is value in what we are able to produce, the rest of us will fall in behind," Harting said.

The tax cut would only be available to breweries that make fewer than 2 million barrels a year, up to their first 60,000, which will cover just about any craft brewer in Tampa Bay. Industry lobbyists say more than half of senators are on record in support of this measure.

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