Nicole Mahoney: 00:20 Hello, I’m Nicole Mahoney, host of Destination on the left. I am passionate about travel and tourism and love learning from the experiences of professionals in the industry. That is why I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest, Paul Leon. Paul began his career as a multimedia producer for the National Baseball Hall of fame and museum in Cooperstown, New York. He soon moved down to editing, shooting, and producing several series for cable television and later worked in the studio agency and advertising industry as a TV producer. He wrote and developed several television pilots on American craft beer. The first few hosted by dogfish heads, Sam Calla, Joanie, although they were never picked up, he discovered his passion for craft beer and knew what he wanted to do as a career moving forward. After living in several parts of the country. Paul moved back home to New York state in 2012 and was hired as the first executive director sure. Of The New York State Brewers Association in 2013. Since then, Paul has seen New York spring industry double in size. Many new laws passed and has had the honor to have met hundreds of incredible and passionate brewers all over the state and country. According to Paul, working for the brewers of New York state and the incredible board of directors guiding the industry every day has been a true privilege to say the least. Thank you for joining me, Paul.
Nicole Mahoney: 01:45 Uh, I, you know, I’m really looking forward to this conversation and I love talking to different folks that are part of the tourism industry, although you are in the craft beverage industry. But craft beverage in New York state is such an important part to tourism and actually pretty much all over the country craft beverages. Just, uh, you know, very much important intercall to a tourism. So I’m looking forward to this conversation, but before we get started, Paul, uh, I know that, you know what? I shared in, in your bio only gives a real small glimpse of who you are and your story and your journey. And so I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about your story and in your own words.
Paul Leone: 02:26 Yeah, it’s been a really strange trip. Do all sorts of fun things. And I was lucky enough, you know, I did it odds and ends here in Rochester after graduating from Nazareth college. And, um, and then, uh, you know, I had my, my roommate was from Cooperstown, New York, and, and, uh, I really love video and television and, uh, we had just happened to have a, he happened to have a connection and I was lucky enough to get a job there. So career really started in, so, you know, the tiny town of Cooperstown at the baseball hall of fame. Okay.
Paul Leone: 02:59 Uh, and then, you know, after several years there, um, you know, being young, I wanted to kind of see the world and, and uh, was hired, um, to work on this brand new network. Uh, I called home and garden television to do a couple of TV shows. And so I’m like, sure, I’ll jump ship. So I went to Washington DC to work on this, mmm. To work on a few shows. And then I really started loving cable television. And so, um, and doing that and, um, and while I was doing that and did several series, um, which caused you to travel a lot, you know, every everywhere we’d go around the country, whatever story we were doing, um, we would always go out at night with a crew and, and crafting. It was really becoming a thing. And we’re talking, you know, now in the late nineties, early two thousands, and, and so every beer, every place we went to, we would always ask, um, you know, what your local beer, what’s your local beer?
Paul Leone: 03:52 And more and more people would have one. So it was Mike career in television and, and, uh, later in agencies and marketing kind of grew, fell in love with the craft beer industry. So I started a video beer blog, dear America TV back in 2008, when nobody was doing video beer blogs. And, um, and so I, you know, I was living in Savannah, Georgia, walked up to the local brew pub owner, um, named John Pinkerton and just said, hey, you want to do this thing with me? And he’s like, sure, why not? Sounds like, so we started doing this video thing together and I wrote a couple of TV pilots, uh, at the same time and pitch those were back in the early 2000. MMM. You know, he would go and pitch your, your TV, uh, your, your TV series about craft beer and, and the, the folks listening, you know, would go, you know, that’s really interesting, but it’s not flying.
Paul Leone: 04:46 And it’s like, ah, you know, and so beer wasn’t really, people really get in the craft beer thing in, in the early 2000 thousands. And so, uh, we kept doing the video beer blog and, and um, you know, and it was just a fun little blog and it was amazing the amount of people that we were getting to watch it. And then we started, we got a call from a company out in Colorado called Warren Miller entertainment. Uh, who don’t do what we were just ski films and they’re like, you know, we saw your blog on line, we think be a great TV show.
Paul Leone: 05:15 We shot a pilot with them and, uh, it didn’t get picked up. And then, uh, they shot a second pilot. And at the time, Sam, cal, Joanie, uh, for the, for your listeners who don’t know is the founder and owner of dogfish head, which really is a, you know, huge craft beer brand. And so Sam and I worked a lot together and I got to meet a lot of really cool people and you know, it’s a really long story, but I got to the point in my career, you know, TV shows weren’t getting picked up, but I, I spent so much time with these craft beer people and I just, you know, at the point in my life, I’m like, you know what, I want to work in this industry somehow. So my wife and I are out in Texas, um, and you know, not really love and Texas find people, but, uh, being upstate New Yorkers didn’t really, you know, love it. And I was working for an agency and I’m just like, you know what, we, we basically quit our jobs, came home but no money and, and in a u haul three kids and just basically said what we we want to do, I want to work in beer. And Ah, I was lucky enough the timing worked out perfect for this job, came open and I had enough experience, landed very long winded. But that’s kind of
Nicole Mahoney: 06:32 how amazing that you were doing this video beer blog. I can totally relate because as you said that and you talked about, you know, people just didn’t quite get craft beer back then. Um, you know, it’s not wine and, and I think that it’s, it’s really interesting how the industry has evolved and how, you know, those different tastes profiles and the different types of experiences that you might have as a wine drinker. You really can have as a beer drinker as well. Right. Um,
Paul Leone: 06:58 but back then, right back then it was really always about wine.
Nicole Mahoney: 07:01 Yeah, exactly. So, uh, you know, in my, in my household, um, I like craft beer, more of a wine drinker, but my husband is a huge craft beer drinker and so we’re, I’ll drink some of the beers that he’s trying. He never wants to try my wine, but we always, you know, have these kind of interesting conversations about, you know, that the taste profiles and the, and the different, um, you know, experiences that you have with different beers. So I think that’s, that’s really cool. Um, the other thing I love is just, you never know, you know, with my guests were where their path is going to lead, lead them and, and uh, how awesome that is that you graduated from college, you know, in Rochester from Nazareth and he had a friend that, that was from Cooperstown, so ended up they’re working in baseball and then just how this path kind of you meandered through and landed where you are right now at the New York state brewers association. I think that’s just really awesome.
Paul Leone: 07:56 Yeah, I left out. And maybe for your listeners who, who, who, who want to get inspired, you know, both of the, the two biggest jobs I’ve had in my life, the baseball hall landing that job, which is highly competitive and landing this job and both were, we’re both sort of timing based and I don’t know if you, I’m sure you’ve done this and you’re like most people have, it’s like, you know what, I’m just going to go for it. And when I sent my resume into the baseball hall of fame, okay. Um, it was sort of blind and the guy that I sent it to the curator, um, just sort of, uh, you know, is a, is one of these guys who’s, you know, go into his office and he’s got papers where you could barely see him. He’s really unorganized but organize. It was his kind of creative chaos. And so, um, the day that my, apparently the story is the day that my resume got.
Nicole Mahoney: 08:45 Yeah.
Paul Leone: 08:46 Um, one of the, one of the people quit in the video department and the curator just look around his desk and he goes, had this just landed on my desk today, call this guy. And it was my resume sitting right on top of the desk. So I just sort of look back at the day and go, Gosh, if I was like a week earlier or a week later, you know, it could have been buried or could have, you know, the person hasn’t quit yet. And then with this job, it was one of those deals where I just moved home and was looking for a job in marketing, actually some local breweries in Rochester. And, and really it was just, you know, struggling financially and trying to find my way in this your world, uh, the owner of robots brewing a genre lab who I’ve known for a while and it’s like, look at, I don’t have anything for you, but the New York state brewers association is looking for an executive director. And he just totally hooked me up. And, and just, I mean, it was like the stars aligned. And so just tell everybody, people just have to go for it.
Nicole Mahoney: 09:39 Sometimes things come together. I think that’s great advice. And I loved when you were telling your story and you said, you know, we packed up our three kids and drove home and, and just relocated and took a chance. Right. I think that that’s just awesome. A lot of people maybe don’t take those chances. Right. And, um, and here you are. So
Paul Leone: 10:01 yeah, I made it sound easier than it was, but at the same time it’s like, you know, sometimes in life you just gotta go for it,
Nicole Mahoney: 10:08 right. What you want and things will work out. Yeah, absolutely. Well, that’s awesome. So, um, as a, you and I were talking before we started this interview on this podcast, we like to focus on creativity and collaboration. Um, but I’m going to take us a little bit off of our question flow. Um, mostly because I want our listeners to know about what’s happening in the beer industry in New York state, because there’s a lot to talk about. There are. So if we could start by having you just talk a little bit about the New York State brewers association, you know, what the organization is all about, the different types of programs and things that you offer. Just to give our listeners some context around that association would be great.
Paul Leone: 10:53 Sure. Yes. The, this version of the New York state brewers association. Oh, it was actually founded in 2003 and at the time the craft beer industry was really starting to grow. So a bunch of brewers got together and formed the New York State brewers association and uh, to kind of help change the laws in New York state because it was at that time, there were 53 breweries in 2003 in New York state. And the laws weren’t really all that great. And so they work really hard in 2003 two to, to help, you know, get legislative change to help, to help grow the industry. And so, um, you know, it was a volunteer board. We’re an association just like any other association that’s just, we happen to represent the crap beer industry in New York state. And as I said earlier, like this version of it, uh, there was a researcher, historian in Albany that kind of did a deep dive and to, to be, or history, and he discovered that in actually the New York state brewers association was first founded in 18 sturdy in New York City as the New York New Jersey brewers association because that’s really kind of where it all started, was in, in New York City, um, you know, with the Dutch and German immigrants and, and kind of worked its way upstate.
Paul Leone: 12:06 And so, uh, that died out, you know, around prohibition and then sort of came back as our version. Uh, and then I was hired 2003 is okay as the first executive director, kind of first employee because at that time the industry, and it was 135 breweries by the time they hired me. And they really needed a, a full time staffer to kind of keep
Nicole Mahoney: 12:25 track of everything. Yeah. I think, uh, I think that’s great. And so there were only 53 breweries in 2003 when the organization started. How many breweries are there today?
Paul Leone: 12:36 434 yeah. And about one opens about on average, one opens up every week
Nicole Mahoney: 12:43 here in New York state.
Paul Leone: 12:46 Yeah. 51 openings last year. And, and you know, we’re still on track to have the stat this year. Um, and we only had three closings last year and we only had six closings the year before. So, so things are, things are going pretty strong here in New York and there’s lots of lots of solid reasons for that.
Nicole Mahoney: 13:03 Yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s, let’s kind of talk about some of those reasons because you did mention that when the organization first started in 2003, one of their focuses was legislation and, and I know there’s Ben recent changes in legislation that have really helped, uh, the industry. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Paul Leone: 13:23 Alcohol industry is highly regulated industry and so, um, you know, as of as of 2014, you know, breweries couldn’t even sell their own beer out of their tasting rooms, you know, and so that, that didn’t even exist. Yeah. Their access to market was really through the, the only way to do is through the three tier system. Um, you know, which is, uh, the manufacturers, a wholesalers and retailers and you know, that the three tier system, which is important to the alcohol industry, um, you know, it was really created because of prohibition. So, so it can tend to be a little outdated, uh, in some ways. And so, um, know access to market is a big thing. And so the association really worked hard at it. Yeah. Making sure that breweries, um, yeah, could, could actually make money by getting into this. So that means, you know, selling out of the tap room self distribution, which was a law that was passed, um, state excise taxes, which are fully refundable.
Paul Leone: 14:22 A farm brewing license never existed until 2013, which has requirements. Uh, uh, you know, if a brewer has a farm brewing license, then, um, they used to be where they had to have 20% mall, New York state, a malt and tube, 20% New York state hops in all of their beers. And so what that did was, is it, it Ha gave rebirth to the hop industry in New York state that law did. And, um, at the time there were malt houses in New York state and now there are 13, and that percentage is it now gone up to 60. So it really created a new industry. So bye. Changing laws, MMM. In favor of okay. You know, business and in favor of breweries. MMM. It makes sense for them to open, um, and to be able to actually make a little bit of a money. And I always say, you know, regardless of your politics, um, you know, governor Andrew Cuomo, uh, really has been great for the craft beverage industry. Um, and, and he learned that from his father. Um, Mario Cuomo, who was our governor and the 80s, who really saved the wine industry at that time, which was, was just running on, uh, it was running on fumes at that point. So, uh, I said we’re really lucky that, again, the stars aligned here, uh, in terms of the graph, Pepperidge industry in New York state.
Nicole Mahoney: 15:43 Yeah. I think that’s really awesome. And so you mentioned that, um, it was, it was 20%, um, of their beers had to use multiple hops or it was 20% and then now it’s 60%. Is that right?
Paul Leone: 15:57 Yeah, as of January 1st this year, 60%. And then in 2024, that goes to 90%, but we’ll see. We’ll see how 60% goes first. You know, that at the time we had to put our stake in the ground somehow to help the industry grow. And it has certainly had growing pains, but at the same time it’s working, you know, out of the 400 licenses in New York state, yeah. Over half our, our farm brewing licenses. So, so people really a hyperlocal and local or are really important to the craft beverage industry and to the consumer.
Nicole Mahoney: 16:29 Right, absolutely. You know, as a travel and tourism professionals, we love hyperlocal and local because that’s something that you can only get here, right. And it really helps, uh, helps us, um, you know, offer more to our visitors, right. To help make a win win both for the breweries as well as for, uh, our visitor economy.
Paul Leone: 16:49 Yeah. And it’s very generational that’s driving this, you know, I mean, you know, all the studies point that the millennials are really driving the craft beverage movement. Yeah. Right now. And, and they, you know, local is super important to them. You know, where does your food come from? Where does your beer come from? Where does, where are things grown? That connection is super important. And then gen x is not far behind, but with our industry, you know, baby boomers and uh, and beyond, you know, enjoy a good craft beverage. So, um, yeah. So it really is, is driving everything right now that, that local,
Nicole Mahoney: 17:23 that’s really awesome. So I’m going to come back to creativity in a minute, but first I want to kind of skip ahead in the question flow and ask you about what’s new and exciting because I know that you just recently released an economic impact, right. I’d like to take an opportunity to talk about that. So, um, can you share with our listeners, um, kind of the exciting news that that was just released through your,
Paul Leone: 17:50 sure. Yeah. We, um, we really had to conduct a study. We had a study done in 2013 that was as we found out later, very flawed. And so, um, as our industry grows and, and there were forces growing against us actually believe it or not, in terms of
Paul Leone: 18:06 few things, um, in, in Albany and legislatively, we felt strongly that we needed an economic impact study, um, to really kind of show what craft beer and the craft beer industry means to the state of New York. And so we, we conducted this study last year and just released it and the numbers were extremely impressive. I mean, overall we’re a five wait billion dollar economic impact brewers, uh, employee, uh, 29 [inaudible] people, uh, across the state. You know, tourism is a $317 million impact. Um, and so, uh, it just goes to show, you know, all of this favorable legislation is paying back to the state of New York. And it’s been a, it’s, it’s a, it’s a story that, that makes us feel really good
Nicole Mahoney: 18:52 right now. Yeah, absolutely. And when, when you were going through this study and getting some of these results, was there anything that really surprised you or surprised any of you, you know, your, your members when they started to see some of these numbers?
Paul Leone: 19:07 I think what was really important to us is we wanted to make it a crap your study and you know, there is a, there was an Anheuser Busch. MMM. There is an Anheuser Busch brewery here in New York state. Uh, and then we have a, which is now known as Frisco, or it used to be called North American breweries in Rochester, which is actually, um, one of the top 10 breweries in the world. So in terms of production, and so what we was really important to us is not to include them in our study because they would skew our numbers a way off the charts. So we really wanted to focus on craft beer. Okay. And I think, you know, those numbers that we came out with really surprise to us that we did all of this without the tube giant breweries in our state. Um, which, which really made us even more proud, you know, is we’d like to say crack correct.
Paul Leone: 19:56 Brewing is it is a wonderfully insufficient business. It takes a lot of people to do just a few things. You walk into a brewery and you know, you’ve got four or five employees, you got somebody brewing, you’ve got somebody’s packaging, you’ve got somebody a cleaning, you’ve got all of these things. Whereas you go to the big beers, if you go to Anheuser Busch, uh, factory, you know, yeah. You know, a small brewery in New York, Oh, brew thousand barrels or less in a year, in a whole year, and employ five people. You go to the big breweries and they literally can brew a thousand barrels, right beer by pushing them button on a computer. Um, and so and so it’s just, you know, the dynamics. So it was really, really great to have a study like the show, you know, the amount of money appointments that this industry brings, the amount of taxes that, that they get back to, you know, and, and the amount of impact overall impact in, in industry and every industry that touches the craft beer space. Um, this was proof, you know, that, uh, that we matter and that we’re regrowing.
Nicole Mahoney: 20:59 Absolutely. We will have a link to this economic impact study on our show notes page and I encourage you to check it out because not only is there a lot of great information there, but the brewers association is also broken this down by county. And, um, Paul, I’m, I’m wondering if there were any surprises when you broke it down by county or any kind of trends that you’re seeing there.
Paul Leone: 21:25 What was really interesting when you broke it down by county, you could have a county that would have, um, you know, uh, one brewery in it, but still have an impact of, of several million dollars and somebody would go, how is that possible? Well because there’s, there could be, um, uh, a wholesaler in that county or there could be a, a bottling company in that county or there could be something that, yeah, touches the crap beer industry indirectly, um, in that county. And so it was really, really great to see that even though there weren’t, yeah. A number of breweries, particular county, there was still an economic impact, ah, in those counties, in every single county in New York state, you know, there’s 62 counties and only a and 58 actually have a brewery, at least one brewery in it. There are four counties don’t, but there’s still an economic impact even in those counties. Yeah.
Nicole Mahoney: 22:15 That’s amazing. That’s really, really awesome. Thank you for sharing that with us. I mean, that is really impressive. Five point $4 billion in economic impact, 20,000 jobs, um, $317 million impact on tourism and the tourism economy. And what I would to just really love is that you focused in on the small business, and this is really, you know, a great example of what can happen, right? When you take an industry that’s artisinal, I mean they call it craft, write it there. It’s artisanal, it’s small, but you put it that much volume together and it just makes a huge, huge difference. So I think that’s just so awesome.
Paul Leone: 22:54 Yeah, it’s a handcrafted product. I always like to say day or are no different than chefs really painstakingly, uh, go through every ingredient to come up with a product for people that love to eat their food. And brewers are exactly the same. You know, they painstakingly yeah. Recipes together, um, that are unique that the consumer is looking for. And you know, they’re not just throwing yeah. Hops, barley water and Easton, Ben and coming out with alcohol. It’s, it’s really, really, uh, really, really unique and cool with the craft beer industry has become
Nicole Mahoney: 23:29 absolutely and a creative at that. Right. So I’d like to talk a little bit about creativity cause I know there’s just so much of it in this industry and we’ll, we’ll start with, let’s talk about does either a brewery in New York state or New York state breweries in general really kind of stand out from the crowd. There is so much, you know, so many choices out there. They’re not only of places to visit, but in terms of, you know, um, beverages to purchase. You know, we talked a little bit about wine, but even in the beer category there’s just so many choices and I’m just wondering what you’ve seen, um, that has really worked to help, you know, New York state breweries and standout
Paul Leone: 24:15 when I first took this job. You know, it’s funny when I get calls from people and I’m sure it’s happened to you too, it’s like, Hey, I’m going to be in New York. You know, you want to get together. And it’s like, well yeah, it’s six hours away. That’s a big thing. Right? And I think a lot of people, if they can get their heads out of it, yes. Did the state is much bigger than New York City. Um, they would understand how big it is. And so the challenge from a marketing perspective was, you know, how do you, how do you market this gigantic state? Uh, you know, and, and me having traveled around and, and with New Yorkers in general travel around the state, uh, quite a bit. You know, the one thing that we, we certainly discovered is this is a state of many different regions.
Paul Leone: 24:58 And all of those regions have personalities in a lot of ways. You know, New York City is far different than buffalo, right. And, and so are the people that live there. And the people who live on long island are far different than people who live in the Adirondacks or in the Capitol region. And so, um, we came up with a, a marketing phrase, you know, beers is diverse. They’re brutal. MMM. And we really haven’t done much with that, but I try to market New York, is that right? Okay. Cool. Thing about it is, is it, you know, a brewer in Long Island, um, it’s going to brew their beer a little different than the brewer in, in buffalo or in the capital district. Their influences are different. And same with New York City and um, you know, in New York City you’re probably gonna get, you know, uh, more in your face type beers because of the personality of the city, uh, itself.
Paul Leone: 25:45 Whereas maybe in the Adirondacks they’re going to brew beer with Maple Syrup, you know, or, or a just a different vibe altogether up there. The ingredients are a little different. Um, and, and the beer reflects that. So from a marketing perspective, I think what, what’s great about New York and it’s beer is that the diversity of it all, you know, you go to one region and then IPA is not an IPA is not an IPA, you know, or, or, or a porter or a stout. So the personalities of the brewers and the personalities, beer being made here I think is a real asset.
Nicole Mahoney: 26:17 Yeah. I think that’s just such a great point because you’re right, it is a large state. And I, and I love that you pointed out that each region has its own personality. I think that’s really a good framing. You know how you can think about that and uh, what a, what a perfect example is as you started to talk about that are starting to imagine, um, you know, what different ingredients you might get from the state. Like this whole idea of perhaps it’s maple syrup, right? Or, um, different parts of the state have access to different types of local ingredients. So I think that’s just a really great way to think about it. Right?
Paul Leone: 26:51 Right. Pumpkin beers or just the beer is made with different flowers from different regions and it’s just, it’s the agriculture in the state definitely, certainly influences the beer in the state.
Nicole Mahoney: 27:08 Yeah, absolutely. And the other thing I love about that is, you know, no two experiences are the same. You’re going to go to one, one brewery, you can even go to the same brewery multiple times and have a different experience every time, right? Because they’re constantly changing those menus. Just like you go to your favorite restaurant multiple times, but also you can, you know, explore New York State Beers from, like you said, buffalo to New York City and you’re going to have very different experiences all along the way. I think that’s just really awesome.
Paul Leone: 27:36 Yeah. Different styles as well. I mean, they just, each region is buffalo is more brute blue collar. So I guarantee you you’re going to find, you know, a lot more pilsners and lagers in that region because it’s more of a, you know, blue collar type area. You know, they love their Labatt blue and they’re, you know, they’re right, they’re lighter beers. And so I think, yeah. You know, a lot of the brewers in Buffalo, um, you know, certainly want to appeal and sell to that, that crowd. And so you’ll see more of those types of beers within seeing those types of beers, maybe downstate or on Long Island.
Nicole Mahoney: 28:06 Right? Absolutely. So Paul, I want to turn this creativity conversation around just a little bit. I always like to ask my guests to share an experience they might’ve had, mmm. With a challenge or some type of adversity and kind of the creativity and the problem solving that comes from that. I finally learned so much when we’re faced with a challenge and we’re really forced to think out of the box and think creatively. And so I’m wondering if there is a challenge that you have faced or your organization maybe has faced and maybe a creative solution that came from that. And then, I know we’ve kind of touched on so many already, but I’m wondering if one stands out for you.
Paul Leone: 28:46 The biggest challenge right now, and this is how you and I connected because you came to me early on, is how to market New York state beer beyond New York state. Like, you know, first off. Yeah. Well that’s actually two too. Lunch is tied together with this. Um, the one thing we discovered is that New Yorkers, mmm. You know, even though our economic impact is really huge, they actually, uh, we only 7% of the beer sold in New York state is, is consumed by New Yorkers, which means they’re consuming beer from all over the country more than they’re consuming. Um, New York state bear. So that’s one challenge that we’re trying to overcome. How to market New York state beer and help New Yorkers take yeah, more pride in their right, they’re local beer, there’s a lot of room to grow there. So it’s a challenge and an opportunity in front of us.
Paul Leone: 29:31 And the other challenge right now for us is with our growth is um, you know, and I, I shouldn’t get up too hung up on, you know, surveys and the best IPA is here are the best this or the best that which come out and are, you know, as clickbait and a lot of ways for people, um, to, uh, you know, hey, these are the best beers. And, and you know, most of those beers are still, when you think of great beer state, do you think of first, you know, you think of Colorado and California and Oregon and Vermont and all of these other states, there’s probably a list of eight or nine states before you start thinking about New York and having traveled to almost all of those states. I can tell you and I, I know I’m biased
Paul Leone: 30:12 that the beer here is fantastic and the, there’s a lot of breweries here that would rival any one of those, uh, other states. So how do we get that word out? How do we make New York into the national conversation as a great beer state? Yeah. Economics impact survey is, is one way, but to the consumer, when you think of, you know, Great Ipa states, New York is not one of them. Um, and I’m not quite sure how to, uh, the challenge for me is how to market that a little bit better. So we came up with a consumer brand thinking New York drink New York. We’re trying to build that brand, uh, a little bit more, um, through a consumer website and, um, just through, through marketing and PR of trying to get our, get our name out [inaudible] to a much wider audience so that people can start really taking a look at New York state.
Nicole Mahoney: 31:00 Yeah. I think those, both of those challenges are great, you know, to point out, and you know, I know when we interviewed, uh, Sam from the New York wine and grape foundation about the wine industry here in New York state and, and you mentioned that the New York wine industry, you know, Governor Mario Cuomo, that’s kind of when they’re boom, started to happen in the 80s and they even still struggle right on the, on the local scene. Um, so I think it’s so interesting, um, you know, that only 7% New York state beers are consumed by New Yorkers. And so absolutely getting New Yorkers to think New York first and then, um, you’re right. And when you mentioned it and you start to think about those states that come to mind that have great beer, great beer states. Um, but we do absolutely have, you know, a really strong story to tell here in New York state and really trying to, to make New York a more top of mind on the national scene. I think those are just two really great, um, you know, examples. And so you’ve started to do some things with your thinking, New York drink New York. I know you’re, you’re working and of course full disclosure listeners working with, with us here, break the ice media and public relations. Um, what are some other things that you’re doing as an organization to try and, um, you know, to try and address those challenges? I know you’ve got some pretty strong events. Yeah.
Paul Leone: 32:28 When we market great marketing tool for us or our beer festivals and we have to do these New York craft beer festivals and there are a zillion beer festivals and, uh, what sets ours is, is that, uh, the brewers are actually, they’re pouring the beer or for those listeners that don’t, who’ve attended festivals in the past, sometimes you go to these festivals and they’re called distributor fast. That’s what we call them. Where this, there’s, there’s just a bunch of beer and there’s a bunch of volunteers pouring beer. And so really it’s drinking for four hours, um, for a certain ticket price. And ours is a lot different where, you know, it’s four hours, three to four hours, but the brewers are actually pouring the beer and they’re from every region of the state. So if we’re doing a festival, you know, in, uh, in Syracuse or in Albany or in Buffalo, the consumer that’s coming, they’re getting beer that they’ve never had before, um, from other parts of the state.
Paul Leone: 33:20 And they’re actually talking to the people that make it. It’s an incredibly powerful tool. And so that’s one way. We actually, the number one complaint that we had, we started, started doing these was the bands we would do music and people would go, you know, it’s too loud. I can’t talk. And so we did away with music altogether and nobody’s ever complained. Their entertainment is talking to the people that make the beer, that there’s this much talking going on is there, is tasting. And we’ve found that to be an incredible marketing tool. And, um, you know, and to also help us over some of our challenges,
Paul Leone: 33:53 uh, as well is that the state government has actually, um, uh, we’ve gotten state grants the last few years, marketing grants, um, for the last couple of years. And so the state helps a little bit with us. It’s, it’s as a nonprofit organization, it’s tough to, to spend a lot of money on marketing dollars. So, um, so for the first time ever we were able to hire, uh, a PR agency, um, you know, you and, and, uh, and that’s, and that’s really helped us a lot and kind of helping us grow up a little bit. You know, social media is great. MMM. There’s a lot of organic growth on social media, but social media is also very noisy. Um, there’s a, there’s a lot of, you know, a lot of people trying to get a whole other more people’s attention and, and so I think you have to break out of that somehow. Some way to kind of market your product. We haven’t done a very good yes. And, and that’s really kind of what we need now is to kind of get through the noise.
Nicole Mahoney: 34:49 Sure. Well, I mean from the sounds of it, you’ve had a lot of other things to focus on, right? And you’ve had this tremendous growth that’s been happening and, and trying to stay ahead of the legislation that you needed to support the, to support the industry. And now you’re, you’re finally at a point where you’ve got this mass and this, um, you know, product to talk about, um, where were before. Not that the product wasn’t good, but you just hadn’t built up that momentum yet. Right? With the 484 breweries, one new brewery opening every week, you know, all of that momentum. It’s just really awesome.
Paul Leone: 35:21 We do it all as it, as an association and we do it all with two and a half people. Um, so, um, and so at that, that makes it even more challenging is that there’s just so much to pull your attention away. Um, and marketing was something we really have been here, Norris, because we’ve really been focused on legislation and so the legislation is good. It’s in a good place. We still have some, some things to do, but now it’s really time to start marketing New York state as it is a beer state.
Nicole Mahoney: 35:50 Absolutely. I love that. And we can get behind that for sure. What I wanted to ask is, I’m a little bit on a collaboration because it’s so important and you started to talk about some state marketing grants that you’d say you’ve received, not necessarily only in the state. I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about, um, you know, how collaboration really does help, um, the brewers association, um, you know, with what you’re trying to accomplish
Paul Leone: 36:17 collaboration.
Nicole Mahoney: 36:20 Sure. Or I actually more specifically since a lot of the folks that are listening to this show, um, you know, are in the tourism industry, they might work for, you know, destination marketing organizations or they might even be, you know, attractions that are next door to some of the breweries. And so I’m wondering if you’ve seen any successes in collaborating specifically, let’s say with the tourism industry and, um, if you’ve seen anything that’s really worked for that.
Paul Leone: 36:48 Yeah, all around the state that they might call us for, um, connections with breweries. But it’s been, it’s been a relationship that, that I’m shocked that we actually haven’t been more involved with. And so, um, and again, I, you know, you sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees and that’s kind of where, where we’ve been because it’s been, we’ve been understaffed and overwhelmed for so long and I’m fortunate enough now just to kind of, mmm. Uh, to get to your question is, I actually am on a board for a new conference that travels the country called the beer marketing and tourism conference.
Nicole Mahoney: 37:25 MMM.
Paul Leone: 37:26 This is our third year. We just had our third year. We were just in Boise, Idaho, uh, recently. And, uh, for it. And we were in Burlington the year before that and Asheville. So we’re going into our fourth year, which will be in Clearwater, Florida. It moves around the country, but it gets together. Um, it’s basically a guilt side of things because they’re there right now there are 51 guilt including Washington DC. Okay. Brewers guild. And then, uh, it gets together a destination marketing organizations and it gets together a beer tour operators and it, and we, we found that it’s a great collaboration. Like things are moving so fast that sometimes we all kind of are focused on our own little silos and, and what I’ve found is how valuable, uh, you know, destination marketing organizations are. Um, and we really under utilized them, um, in, in this state, but just because of where we were just are so focused on keeping an eye on this industry. So we haven’t collaborated nearly enough locally. MMM. On that sort of are throughout the state. Uh, we do do a conference every year, a brewer’s conference recently, we started last year in Albany and then I do get calls from bmos around the state. Yeah. Um, you know, asking, Hey, you know, can you do a festival here or conference there? But beyond that we really haven’t collaborations probably as effectively as we could,
Nicole Mahoney: 38:44 could be. I appreciate, you know, your, your honesty and openness with sharing, with sharing that. But I also imagine that based on how this conversation is going, that this is just all kind of new territory, right? As you’re, you know, this economic impact study that just came out that shows how important, um, the craft beer industry is to tourism and to the state in general. Um, and then, you know, you said you’re just coming up on the fourth year of this peer marketing and tourism conference. So it seems to me like it’s really, it kind of an emerging opportunity and, and, uh, I really appreciate you kind of, you know, your openness and you sharing kind of some of those experiences that you have had. And, and who knows, Paul, after we published this episode, perhaps you’ll be getting more calls from, from demos to collaborate
Paul Leone: 39:37 territory for us every year. It’s just because of the growth and before me, there was no me. So I, you know, as far as the director goes of this association, so we really are just figuring it out as it goes. Um, and, and that’s both exciting and scary at the same time because, you know, I think any realistic person understands that, um, you know, this isn’t going to last forever. At some point it’s going to level off and things are going to slow and normalize. And so, um, you know, we’re trying to plan for that as well. And, and so what are you left with in the end when that does happen and it will happen, um, eventually no bubble is going to burst, but, but things will slow and then how do you market yourself then? Where do you, okay. And so we’re trying to be mindful of all that by not being full of ourselves or being the big kids on the block and, and kind of pumping our chest out. You know, I think I don’t, that’s a constructive right now. So we’re just trying to be mindful of the future as well.
Nicole Mahoney: 40:35 Right. Absolutely. I think that’s really awesome. I knew we’d have no shortage of things to talk about with everything that’s going on in New York state, in the beer industry right now. Um, I really appreciate you being on the show. And are there any final words or final thoughts that you’d like to share? Anything that I didn’t ask you that you wanted to share with our listeners before we,
Paul Leone: 40:56 sure. If you don’t mind. I would like to plug our, the APP that we did, and I always joke about this because it has a real strong tourism aspect. Um, we, uh, when I first took this job, you know, it would, Vermont tomorrow brewing scene was always a booming one. And they had this paper passport program where you literally a, it worked like a passport. You go to a brewer or you get a stamp and you get a certain number of stamps and you get a reward. And so, um, kind of the bigger picture and you’re like, okay,
Paul Leone: 41:23 how do we do that in New York? And, and I think we’re in a day and age where Percy, anybody carrying a paper passport around with them as they visit all of these breweries. And so we came up with an APP. And as I always joke, everybody in the room who needs another APP, nobody raises their hand, right. Cause there’s so many of them. And so we tried to design an APP in a way. MMM hmm. People would want it. And it really, what we did is we integrated a passport program into the APP. MMM. Called New York craft beer. The APP is and, and uh, basically it has every brewery in the state. And if you, when you visit a brewery, you, you stamp the passport and you get 35 stamps, you, you get a free reward that to you, you get 60, you get another and so on and so forth.
Paul Leone: 42:03 So it’s all tiered. So you’re rewarding people for this free app to visit breweries. And, and what, what I was hoping happened, what happened happened, um, people really kind of, it turned into a game almost. It’s like, oh, well, you know, I’m at this brewery and I’m only one stamp away. I’m going to go to this other brewery, which is only a few miles away, which you can find by hitting a button on the APP. Um, you know, breweries are nearby. And so that’s proved to be a huge marketing tool for us. We really haven’t, um, in terms of getting people out and visiting breweries, and again, we haven’t actually started marketing it yet. We need to market it and we’ve already have 15,000 downloads and people collecting rewards every day on the APP. So, uh, I’m hoping that it picks up and people are visiting in, they’re finding breweries that they didn’t know existed before. So it really is serving a great purpose.
Nicole Mahoney: 42:55 Yeah, absolutely. And I’m so glad that you brought that up because I think it is a great marketing tool for, for you. But I also think that those early results are really impressive. I mean, 15,000 downloads and the number of folks that are, that are engaging with it, they’re not just downloads and then it sits on their phone and they don’t use it. Right. They’re actually using it and you’re getting entries all the time, uh, of people who are completing the passport, right?
Paul Leone: 43:18 Yeah. They begging it becomes a game, right? It’s like, oh gosh, I got to visit this brewery, visit that brewer and people travel. And they’re like, well, I need to go to this brewery. And then we’ve made it super simple. I think the important thing with an APP, um, with any APP is that, you know, we try to get it, if you have an APP, because of all of our short attention spans and we try to get them the information with it, two clicks, right? They want to find a brewery or they want to find any information at all on that APP. We tried to make it as easy as possible and I think that’s been key, uh, in a lot of ways to the success of it. It’s like, okay, I’m here. W what breweries are close to me. That’s one click away. Uh, how many stamps do I have? That’s one click away. Um, and you know what breweries are around me, you know, that sort of thing. And so, so that really helps as well. So we tried to be really good, thoughtful about it as well because you’re right, so many people have so many apps that it’s so easy just like, you know what, I don’t use this, I’m just going to get rid of it.
Nicole Mahoney: 44:11 So yeah, absolutely. And listeners that would be the New York craft beer app that you can search for, but we will also include a link in the show notes page as well, directly to the APP so you can check that out. Um, any of our listeners want to get ahold of you or want to find out more about New York state craft beer. What is the best way for them to find you?
Paul Leone: 44:32 You know what, you can, you can, uh, you can email me. That would probably be the best way. Call it New York craft beer.com in New York is spelled out. Um, that’s by far the easiest way to reach me. And then our website is a New York craft beer.com. Okay. Um, spelled out and thinking why drink and lie.com so and that knows those websites have all the information of our festivals and where we are and what we’re doing and uh, all of that. And we are creating a more consumer focused a website soon so that the consumers can kind of, yeah. Um, get what they need and then we’ll have a website really focused on the brewing yeah. Side of things.
Nicole Mahoney: 45:08 The brewers get what they need. Awesome. I love it. Well, thank you so much for your time today. This is really informative and we’ll look forward to checking back in with you as this industry continues to to grow and change. Thanks so much, Paul.
Paul Leone: 45:22 Yeah, thanks for having me. And thanks for all the incredible work that you guys are helping us with as well. It’s something that we need in every organization needs.Nicole Mahoney: 45:30 Thank you. Appreciate that.