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Toomey’s Take: A Great Pennsylvania Tradition

  |  Pat Toomey June 10, 2016

Beer usually has only a few ingredients: grain, hops, yeast, and water. To an untrained eye, this list might appear quite simple and plain, but when a master brewer takes these ingredients, it is like giving Michelangelo some paint and a brush. They can convert such humble elements into a rich dark porter, a bitter, dry-hopped pale ale, or a crisp, ice-cold pilsner that helps cut through the heat of a summer day.

Few beverages are as versatile and as loved as beer, and last month, I had the opportunity to view just how beer is brewed when I toured D.G. Yuengling & Son Brewery. Many years ago, I was first introduced to Yuengling simply as "lager," because when you go to nearly any Pennsylvania bar and order a "lager," a Traditional Yuengling Amber Lager is what you will be served. Headquartered in Pottsville, Yuengling started out as a family business in 1829 and has grown to become one of the largest breweries in the country. As I toured the brewery and watched the master brewers tend to their craft, I came to realize that Yuengling, despite its success and growth, has never forgotten its roots as a family-owned small business from an old coal-mining town.

Yuengling's classic American success story is emblematic by more than 250 small breweries that call Pennsylvania home and, together, employ 41,000 people. In fact, only five states have more craft breweries than our commonwealth, and our breweries contributed nearly $4.5 million to our economy in 2014. We need to make sure these job creators can continue to grow, hire more Pennsylvanians, and keep prices affordable so that consumers can continue to responsibly enjoy their favorite beverages.

Unfortunately, some of our current tax policies are hindering the growth of Pennsylvania's craft breweries. It may surprise you, but approximately 40 percent of the retail price of beer comes directly from taxes. Overtaxing and overregulating a product consumers love and an industry that adds so many jobs and contributes so much to our economy just doesn't make sense. That's why I'm pleased to co-sponsor a common-sense, bipartisan bill to streamline regulations and lower some of the taxes that Pennsylvania brewed beer faces.

Known as the Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act, this proposal will cut in half the excise tax for 98 percent of brewers and will simplify regulations for producers of craft beverages, cider, wine and distilled spirits by removing the bi-weekly tax filing requirements. With this legislation, we will not only ease an unfair burden on craft beverage producers, but we will also pass along meaningful savings to the consumer. This is one way we can support our small businesses, which form the backbone of our nation and our economy.

This summer as you crack open your next cold brew, remember that Pennsylvania has a long tradition of brewing great beer. While our state can take pride in the great successes of breweries like Yuengling, we should also make sure to help the next generation of small breweries and small business owners by streamlining regulations and removing the red tape coming out of Washington D.C. I, for one, am very happy that Pennsylvania is leading the way in the craft beer industry, and together, we can make sure it stays that way.