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As the popularity of craft breweries expand, so do their makers

Larry Bennett doesn't need to look far to be reminded of the recent changes in the beer industry. Bennett, a press relations manager at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, simply has to glimpse outside his office window at the 4,000 square foot caf being constructed and he already has evidence of the rise of craft beer.

"The past few years have been terrible for lots of people," Bennett said. "But the craft beer industry has been growing 11 or 12 percent every year. We are clearly the wave of the future in this."

Closer to home, Empire Brewing Company also hopes to ride the upswing in the popularity of craft beer.

The Syracuse restaurant already brews in-house at the Armory Square hot spot, but has plans to build a microbrewery in Cazenovia.

When owner David Katleski addressed the Cazenovia Village Board in November he said the new facility could create up to 70 jobs, include a tasting room and probably provide tours, one way Ommegang has found success.

"This is what these beer geeks do - I don't get it, but they travel all over the place and go to these breweries," Katleski said.

Things are looking good

According to the Brewers Association - a trade group for craft brewers based in Boulder, Colo. - beer sales in the U.S. were down an estimated 2.7 percent by volume in the first half of 2010. However, the craft beer industry saw a 9 percent increase.

Craft beer is at a historically high demand and breweries across the nation, like Ommegang and Empire, are expanding their facilities in attempts to keep up with the rise in customer interest.

Julia Herz, the craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, said that New York has the eighth most craft breweries out of any state in the country with 59, and that growth is currently a theme in the craft beer industry.

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