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Warner Backs Bill Offering Tax Breaks To Craft Breweries

Warner at Richmond's Harwood Park Craft Brewery.
Photo courtesy of Phil Riggan
Warner at Richmond's Harwood Park Craft Brewery.

Last Wednesday Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) had a somewhat unconventional breakfast: beer. But the sudsy start to his morning had a larger point, as Warner used a tour of Richmond's Harwood Park Craft Brewery to announce that he was throwing his weight behind a bill that would grant tax breaks to small breweries across the country.

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act of 2013 would lower the excise tax paid by brewers producing less than six million barrels of beer a year.

Under the provisions of the bill, qualifying small brewers would see their excise rate on the first 60,000 barrels cut to $3.50 from $7, and pay $16 per barrel on every barrel after that up to two million barrels. Currently, brewers that produce more than 60,000 barrels a year pay $18 per barrel, no matter how big or small the brewery is. Small-time and craft breweries say this is an unfair tax on their operations, given that they can't easily compete with big-name breweries.

Cardin, the bill's sponsor, similarly traveled to two small breweries—Flying Dog Brewery in Fredrick and Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe—earlier this summer to promote the bill. “Small brewers have been anchors of local communities and America’s economy since the start of our history," he said upon introducing the bill in May.

Warner agreed when he announced that he was signing on to the bill. “In my mind, it is both a way to promote Virginia and a way to promote local-based manufacturing economy,” he said, according to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. “It adds a great meshing of tourism opportunities and is a business multiplier.”

Maryland is home to 29 craft brewers, with at least 24 more in the planning stages. According to Warner's office, the number of craft breweries in Virginia grew by 30 percent over the last year. D.C. has also seen an explosion in local brewing, with three breweries already operational and three more in the works.

The bill is also supported by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), whose home state is home to Dogfish Head Brewery. Twenty-nine other senators are also backing the bill.

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