“I really like beer,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina’s 10th Congressional District, as he sipped on a variety of craft beers at Green Man Brewery on Buxton Avenue in Asheville. "I don't have a very sophisticated palate, but I know what I like."
The Republican congressman, who is running for re-election in November against Democrat Patsy Keever, visited Asheville on August 23 and toured Highland Brewing Company, Green Man, and Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue in support of the US Small Brew Act. Congressional boundaries were redrawn last year, putting most of Asheville in the 10th District. McHenry is based in Cherryville, in Gaston County. Keever lives in Asheville.
The Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act aims to reduce the small brewer tax rate on the first 60,000 barrels of beer by 50 percent produced annually (from $7.00 to $3.50 per barrel). It also will institute a new rate of $16.00 per barrel on production above 60,000 barrels up to two million barrels. Breweries with an annual production of six million barrels or less would qualify for these tax rates (which currently includes every craft brewery in the nation).
If the bill passes in January, it will mean significant tax breaks for every brewery in North Carolina. At present, Highland Brewing is the largest N.C. craft brewery and produces around 25,000 barrels annually.
The tax breaks will benefit the larger craft brewers coming to the region as well--Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Oskar Blues. The biggest of those in terms of production, Sierra Nevada, will likely brew around 400,000 barrels in its first year from their N.C. facility (starting in late 2013 or early 2014).
The bill was introduced in March and currently has more than 50 bipartisan congressional supporters, according to McHenry. Keever also supports the bill.
“We need to incentivize small business owners to hire more workers and to keep growing. This tax break allows our local breweries to do just that – to expand and create more jobs in the communities of the 10th District,” Keever said. “And because this Act targets a tax that virtually only applies to these breweries, it will not hurt the local tax base.”
After touring the three breweries, McHenry spoke to a group of Western North Carolina beer industry workers and brewers.
“I believe in taking care of people,” he said. “There’s currently a disproportionate tax burden on small and start-up breweries. I’m very supportive of this bipartisan bill.”
He noted that with the savings from this federal excise tax, small breweries would be able to expand and hire two or three extra employees.
McHenry went on to discuss his support of a crowd-funding bill, of which he is an author.
“This offers a whole new avenue for raising capital for small businesses,” he said.
The publicity event was organized by Win Bassett, executive director of the N.C. Brewers Guild, who asked that McHenry join the U.S. Congressional Small Brew Caucus, which he said he would do.
“We’re all working really hard here, and we thank the congressman for understanding that,” said Dennis Thies, owner of Green Man Brewery.
McHenry said his favorite beers of the day were Highland’s St. Therese’s Pale Ale, Green Man’s Porter, and Asheville Brewing’s Fire Escape. Keever said her go-to Asheville beer is usually Highland’s Gaelic Ale.
Watch McHenry speak to local brewers Aug. 23 at the Asheville Brewing Company:
Video by Jake Frankel