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McGovern tours craft breweries as he touts bill to ease their tax burden

  • Sean Nolan and Jay Sulivan, owners of Honest Weight Artisan Beer, welcome Congressman Jim McGovern and Rep. Susannah Whipps during their brewery tour. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Congressman Jim McGovern and Representative Susannah Whipps visited Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. October 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Congressman Jim McGovern and Representative Susannah Whipps visited Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. October 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Kyle Warren works in the brewery at Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. October 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Jay Sullivan pours beers for visiting officials Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. October 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Berkshire Brewing Co. Founder Gary Bogoff, far right, speaks with Congressman Jim McGovern, right, at the business’ South Deerfield brewery Friday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Berkshire Brewing Co. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Congressman Jim McGovern in Berkshire Brewing Co.’s South Deerfield brewery Friday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Berkshire Brewing Co. Founder Gary Bogoff, middle, speaks with Congressman Jim McGovern, right, and Deerfield Selectboard Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness, left, at the business’ South Deerfield brewery Friday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Berkshire Brewing Co. Founder Gary Bogoff at the business’ South Deerfield brewery Friday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo



For the Gazette
Sunday, October 29, 2017

DEERFIELD — Congressman Jim McGovern spent part of Friday hopping around Franklin County and surrounding towns touring craft breweries and touting the roles they play in the local economy.

The Democrat said wine has long been appreciated for its elegance and wide array of varieties, and craft brewers have helped create the same appreciation for beer by educating the American palate through great ingredients and depth of flavor.

“The quality is extraordinary,” McGovern told Gary Bogoff, founder and owner of Berkshire Brewing Co. in Deerfield, while finishing a cup of InHOPnito American IPA during a tour.

Opened in 1994 when microbreweries were just trying to gain a foothold in a market dominated by the big national and international brewing companies, Berkshire Brewing Co. was the first brewery in the county in the modern era. Now it’s the county’s largest brewery, with a staff of 60. Last year, it brewed about 19,500 barrels.

McGovern and leaders and representatives from local chambers of commerce, regional tourism councils and food banks started their day at Valley Malt in Hadley and then hit BBC before visiting Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange, and other breweries in Worcester County, also in the 2nd Congressional District.

“It’s happy hour somewhere in the world,” McGovern said standing outside the brewery’s Railroad Street taproom just after 11:30 a.m.

McGovern said beer drives tourism much like wine does and local breweries provide their communities with jobs. According to McGovern’s office, the 110 Massachusetts craft breweries support 16,220 jobs, with average $49,008 salary per employee, and carry $1.83 billion in economic impact. The state ranks 17th in the country with its number of craft breweries. Franklin County alone has about a dozen fermenters.

“Today is important because we’re celebrating a local business’ success,” said Deerfield Selectboard Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness. “I can’t remember exact numbers off-hand, but they have given hundreds of thousands (of dollars) to the local food bank.”

Bogoff said BBC has helped provide local food banks with 600,000 meals since roughly 1996.

Bogoff also said there were fewer than 500 breweries in the United States 30 years ago and now that number is up to 5,500, with another 1,000 in the development stages. He also said three employees have left the company to start their own operations and the local beer community is a tight-knit one.

Part of McGovern’s small-business tour was to talk about his work to pass H.R. 747, a law that would ease the tax burden on micro brewers. The bipartisan bill would reduce the federal excise tax to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually. It would also reduce to $16 per barrel the amount domestic brewers must pay for the barrels between 60,001 and 2 million, or reduce to $16 per barrel the federal excise tax on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers.

Jay Sullivan, one of the owner-brewers of Honest Weight, said his brewery pays $10 in a combination of federal and state excise tax for every barrel (31 gallons) produced. He said he foresees it being difficult to pass H.R. 747, though doing so would greatly lessen the tax burden on craft breweries.

According to McGovern’s office, the bill would also allow for consolidated bookkeeping for brewpubs, expand the list of ingredients that could automatically be included in a beer without approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and allow brewers to transfer beer between bonded breweries without tax liability.

Sullivan, a Lowell native, said he and fellow owner-brewer Sean Nolan, who hails from Athol, started Honest Weight the day after Thanksgiving in 2015. It started with he and Nolan working seven days a week, and now the brewery has four full-time employees and four part-timers.

Sullivan poured McGovern five ounces of My Conversation, a dry-hopped saison style ale, and explained how Honest Weight’s tasting room in the Orange Innovation Center has seen droves of people in the past nearly two years. He said many tasters have asked where locally they can go hiking, camping or fishing, whereas many Massachusetts residents have for years gone to Maine or Vermont for those opportunities.

“You’re changing that,” McGovern told Sullivan while standing next to State Rep. Susannah Whipps of Athol.