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Report toasts N.J. beer distributers' stout economic impact

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Oscar Wilde may have said the work is the curse of the drinking classes, but in New Jersey, beer distributers are the toast of the town.

According to a new report released by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the state’s distributors directly employ 1,954 people, and contribute roughly $1 billion in economic activity to the state. Nationally, distributers employ more than 130,000 people.

The report, complied by Bill Latham and Ken Lewis of the Center for Applied Business & Economic Research at the University of Delaware, placed New Jersey 17th in the nation in total economic impact created by the industry. Distributors in Texas led the way, with more than $6.34 billion in economic activity, followed by California ($5.39 billion) and New York ($3.51 billion).

“The beer distribution sector is a hidden gem that has been tremendously undervalued in previous economic reports,” Latham said in prepared remarks. “Fueling more than 345,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country, beer distributors add $54 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and offer far-reaching benefits to brewers, importers, retailers, consumers and government agencies at all levels.”

NBWA estimates New Jersey distributors contribute $229 million in federal, state and local taxes, before excise and consumption taxes. They add that these taxes can support the equivalent of maintenance for 3,247 miles of highways in New Jersey for a year.

Chris Walsh, owner of River Horse Brewery, in Lambertville, said because the brewery does not have any sales reps, they rely on their distributor, Hunterdon Brewery, to get the word out.

“They have the entire state of New Jersey for us,” he said. “We rely on their sales reps to basically tell our story, and we rely on their relationships with on-premise and off-premise accounts where they represent us as one of their brands.”

River Horse brews several craft beers year round, in addition to special seasonal beers, in an old oyster cracker factory on the Delaware River.

Hunterdon represents craft beers from across the country, Walsh said, and “we are in some ways just another one of their brands — but we’re their local New Jersey brand. In their portfolio, I think we’re one of the largest revenue (brands) they have.”

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