Ithaca Beer Company’s expansion plan for a new fermentation room with tanks was approved on Nov. 5 by the Town of Ithaca Planning Board.
The company has grown 30 percent annually over the past two years, increasing from 12 to 55 employees said Allison Graffin, marketing director for Ithaca Beer Company.
In 2012, the nation’s craft beer industry saw a 17 percent increase in dollar growth. According to the Brewer’s Association, New York’s breweries ranked among the top for beer sales also in 2012, which meant a higher demand for hops, the flavoring and stability agent in beer .
Hops harvesting begins in late August and lasts through early October, according to the Hops Growers Association of America. Much like the hops plant — which can grow up to a foot in size a day — demand for hops is growing fast as well, which means jobs in the hops farming and beer industries are too.
“When we planted the hops four years ago there was 23 or 24 acres, I think, planted in New York State, and now there’s over 140 acres planted,” said Chris Hansen, co-owner of Climbing Bines Hops Farm in Penn Yan, New York.
This October, Governor Andrew Cuomo welcomed 14 licensed farm breweries to the state. In order to receive a Farm Brewery license in New York State, the beer must be made primarily from locally grown farm products, according to the Farm Brewery Law. Cuomo said he wanted New Yorkers and visitors “to ‘buy local’ and keep coming back for more.”
“The fact that we can make a beer with all the ingredients grown in a three mile radius is pretty cool, because there’s not a whole lot of people in the country right now that are doing that,” said Hansen.
Because the business is booming, jobs in the beer industry are needed more than ever. According to data from The Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, jobs in brewing, wholesale and retail have increased by 127,770 from 2001 to 2012.
Hansen said people don’t realize how much labor really goes into hops farming, but if you have a lot of friends who just want to give you a hand and hang out, it doesn’t seem like work.
“Between farming hops and crafting beer,” Hansen said, “We are really enjoying ourselves and have found a very fun industry to be involved in.”