In an effort to help America’s craft beer makers, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has authored a bill that would reduce federal production taxes paid by companies that brew relatively small batches of beer.

The bill, dubbed the Small BREW Act of 2015, is being co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. It aims to change the threshold definition of a small brewer in federal law, which would reduce the amount of federal excise tax brewers pay on their products.

Under current federal law, brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels a year pay $7 per barrel in federal excise taxes on the first 60,000 barrels they brew, and $18 per barrel on every additional barrel. A barrel is equal to 31 gallons of beer.

Under Collins’ proposal, the new rate for small brewers would be $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels. For production between 60,001 and 2 million barrels, the rate would be $16 per barrel. Then, the rate would be $18 per barrel.

Only brewers who cap their annual production at 6 million barrels or less would be eligible for the new rate, according to a release issued by Collins’ office.

The law that taxes beer production in the U.S. has not been updated since 1976, according to Collins.


“Maine is home to dozens of unique craft breweries and brew pubs that invigorate our economy by providing more than 1,400 jobs and drawing countless tourists into our state,” Collins said in a prepared statement.

“In meeting with brewers across Maine, they always make clear to me how federal tax policy affects their businesses,” she said. “Our bill would help reduce the tax burden placed on many small brewers across our country, allowing them to thrive, create jobs and further grow our economy.”

Other lawmakers supporting the change include Democrats and Republicans from across the country.

The U.S. has more than 3,200 small and independent breweries, with about 1.5 more opening every day, according to the Brewers Association.

Collins noted in her release that even though these small breweries represent about 12 percent of the U.S. beer industry in terms of volume, they now represent the majority of jobs in beer.

In 2013, craft breweries directly employed 110,273 people. They had a total economic impact of more than 360,000 full-time-equivalent jobs generating more than $3 billion in wages and benefits. They paid more than $2.3 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes in towns and cities across America, Collins said.


Adjusting the excise tax rate would provide small brewers with an additional $65-$70 million each year, which they could use to expand their businesses on a local, regional or national scale.

An economic impact study by former Harvard University assistant professor John Friedman (now at Brown University) found that the bill would generate $183.1 million in economic activity in the first year and almost $1.04 billion over five years and would create nearly 5,230 jobs in the first year.

Maine has 61 craft brewers, with at least a dozen more in the planning stages, according to the release.

“This is the top priority for the industry here in Maine,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, a statewide industry association. “And what’s really cool is Maine’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Collins and King, are leading the charge on this.”

Sullivan said the focus on the needs of his industry speaks to its growing importance to Maine’s economy.

In a letter to newspapers statewide Thursday, Sullivan said most craft brewers in Maine couldn’t keep up with the demand for their products.

“The simple fact is, today there are very few brewers in the state who can meet the demand for their product, yet in this capital and equipment intensive business, brewers are often unable to scale up fast enough,” Sullivan wrote.

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