Reality Check: Small Brew Act Good for Cincy - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Reality Check: Small Brew Act Good for Cincy

(Source: FOX19 NOW File) (Source: FOX19 NOW File)
Rhinegeist Brewery (Source: FOX19 NOW File) Rhinegeist Brewery (Source: FOX19 NOW File)

Craft beer is booming in America with annual sales at $14 billion a year and counting so in a city that loves its beer it's no wonder craft brewers are popping up all over.

Blank Slate, Mad Tree, Mount Carmel and Braxton just a few of the small breweries taking advantage of a new generation of beer drinker in search of bolder flavors and higher quality ingredients.

There may be no better local success story than Cincinnati's own Rhinegeist Brewery. Two years ago the start-up company had a staff of just five whereas today there are more than sixty on the payroll with Rhinegeist projecting sales of 30,000 barrels; three years ahead of schedule. However, plans for even larger growth are being squeezed by new laws like one passed in Kentucky recently that keeps small brewers from distributing from across state lines. And then there's a 25-year old federal tax that if eliminated could be just the boost small brewers need to take their business to the next level.

Passed back in 1990 as part of a luxury tax package on big ticket items including, yachts and jet airplanes, the federal beer excise tax hits small brewers like Rhinegeist hard with 40 percent of the cost of every can going to Uncle Sam. 

"Every dollar counts and being able to re-invest in our own growth is critical," said Rhinegeist Co-Founder and President Bob Bonder.

But relief may be on the way: currently making its way through Congress, the Small Brew Act would slash Rhinegeist's tax burden in half. From $7 per barrel down to $3.50.

"That $100,000, for us a small growing business, goes a long way...for that we could buy a 240 barrel fermenter which we could use pretty desperately right now," Bonder said.

The Small Brew Act is certainly a win-win for Rhinegeist, but it's also good for Cincinnati: It means more equipment, more manpower, more production and most importantly more beer which means more sales tax revenue for Cincinnati means more money in the general fund. More money for cops and firefighters and social services etc. That's the bottom line and that's Reality Check.

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