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

"You can't guarantee that every brewery is expanding," Herz said. "But, if you take the top 50 brewing companies in the U.S. the majority of them did grow their sales in the last year. Over 40 of the 50 grew their sales."

Ommegang is currently on track to produce 24,000 barrels in 2010, and budgeting for a 25 percent increase to that number for 2011. The warehouse was completed earlier this year and Bennett said that the caf will be finished in about a month.

"We think it will help keep people here," Bennett said. "We'll probably make some money off the restaurant, but that's not really what the restaurant is about. The restaurant is about encouraging the people to try beer and food."

Uncommonly common success

Ommegang and Empire are far from alone in their efforts to expand.

Brooklyn Brewery, located in Brooklyn, currently serves 24 states and 16 countries. Rich Jarvis, the northern New York manager for Brooklyn, said that expansion has been a hot topic for the brewery for a couple years and that the tough economic times actually helped them.

"With the recession, the landlords finally eased up a little bit," Jarvis said. "We were able to acquire another 20-year lease on the property and we are basically expanding right next door to where we are currently."

Brooklyn brews a total of 110,000 barrels a year, with only 30,000 of the barrels being brewed at the company's facility in Brooklyn, Jarvis said. The rest of the beer is brewed at the F.X. Matt Brewery in Utica, another craft brewery.

The new expansion will allow the company to brew approximately six times more beer in the Brooklyn facility alone.

To Jarvis the expansion is a clear sign of the rise of craft beers and the change of the entire industry itself. When craft beers first started in the U.S. the brewers would look to European style beers for ideas, but that has slowly changed.

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