When Ed Maier saw how much the beer industry contributed to the nation’s economy, he was nearly barreled over.
The “Beer Serves America” report, released July 28 by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, placed the economic output of the industry last year at $252.6 billion or approximately 1.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, the sum total of goods and services produced in the country.
“That number astounded me,” Maier said Friday.
As the co-owner of the Susquehanna Brewing Co. with his son Fred and Mark Nobile, Maier played a small role, but a role nonetheless, in the industry rolling up some big numbers nationally and in Pennsylvania.
His family has been involved in brewing beer locally since the mid-1800s, when his immigrant great-great-grandfather, Charles Stegmaier, put his German-learned brewmaster skills to work. Northeastern Pennsylvania has been synonymous with beer, something Maier attributed to the region’s coal mining history.
“This is a strong beer drinking area,” he said.
The report’s numbers back him up.
Pennsylvania tallied a $9.2 billion economic output starting with brewing and spreading out to include the agricultural, manufacturing, transportation and travel and entertainment and government sectors, according to the report. All told, the direct, indirect and induced economic impacts accounted for 70,636 jobs and $3 billion in wages. Drilling down in the report, in the 17th Congressional District that includes Jenkins Township where the brewery is located there were 3,438 jobs, $152.9 million in wages and a $557.3 million economic impact.
SBC accounted for 15 of those jobs, Maier said. The brewery, started with an initial investment between $8 million and $10 million, just closed its third year and produced roughly 8,000 barrels containing 31 gallons each of its own and contract brands. If things go as planned, the production should increase to between 13,000 and 14,000 barrels in 2016, Maier said.
The company makes an effort to buy products, supplies and services from the area to further contribute to the local economy.
“We do business locally whenever there’s somebody here that can do it,” Maier said.
The company can’t and doesn’t compete with the big names of Budweiser, Miller or Coors and instead found its niche as craft brewer producing smaller batches of ales and beers.
“This craft movement is literally a revolution in the industry,” Maier said.
He provided a brief history lesson to support his case.
“I closed the Stegmaier Brewing Co. in 1974. At that time there were 42 brewing companies in the US. We are now back up to 3,700” including brew pubs and small production companies, he said. In 1900 there were approximately 2,000 companies; after Prohibition, 750 reopened in 1934, he said.
About 20 years ago when the brewing industry “was imploding” craft brews started to gain favor, Maier said. “Local became cool again and small became cool again,” he said.
Northeastern Pennsylvania remains the core market for SBC, but it’s testing others. “Last month we assigned a wholesaler that does Virginia, Maryland and (the District of Columbia),” Maier said. With the aid of the internet he’s able to follow the progress and last month saw a Facebook post of people enjoying a SBC beverages on tap at a bar in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
“It all spreads the word,” said Maier, and the reach and the economic impact.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLNews.