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SKANEATELES | With hard cider becoming more popular and the industry doubling in size every year, a Skaneateles man has decided to try his hand at the business and create a local microbrew.

Stephen Peltz said he will open Pigs Head Farm Brewery in 2014 and introduce Pigs Head Farm hard cider, distributing it at restaurants and stores around Onondaga County and New York.

Though he has no prior experience with a brewery, Peltz said he has a background in business and manufacturing and decided to start a brewery after Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year signed the farm brewery bill. The legislation is designed to boost New York's craft beer industry by providing tax benefits, exempting small breweries from State Liquor Authority fees and creating a farm brewer license to help small breweries further expand their businesses.

Peltz said market research told him hard cider is the fastest growing segment of the industry, and he pointed to such examples as Miller-Coors releasing Redds Apple Ale and products such as Woodchuck and Angry Orchard to show how popular the beverage has become.

"I decided to bring a new brand and recipe to market that will sell itself with branding and taste components," Peltz said through email. "My goal is to establish a unique culture around Pigs Head."

He said his brand of hard cider will be made from New York apples, and the cider will serve as the primary beverage produced by the brewery.

Peltz said he plans to work with local restaurants that have taps to sell Pigs Head Farm in draft form and also with area stores to sell labeled bottles.

"The tap handle and label will stand out - it will be a happy pig taking a bite out of an apple. You won't be able to miss it," he said. "The look, branding and taste components all will be consistent with quality for enjoyment."

The hard cider category is growing at more than 100 percent a year, Peltz pointed out, and he also said the percentage of beer consumption is declining while hard cider consumption is on the rise.

Hard cider still makes up less than 1 percent of the American beer market, Peltz said, but with the category taking off, he said the outlook is promising.

"There is a trend happening, and this is an opportunity to redefine and create something unique for the public to enjoy," Peltz said. "When you have a doubling every year, it's going to get attention."

In addition to the state farm brewery bill, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has proposed the CIDER (Cider Investment and Development through Excise tax Reduction) Act to increase the allowed alcohol content of hard cider so more products can be defined and taxed as hard cider instead of wine.

Peltz said laws like those are making it easier for start-ups by reducing the overhead and cutting out the middle man and lead him to believe his brewery can be successful in New York.

"New York State is the top apple producer in the country, so there is a big advantage of centralizing operations here locally," Peltz said, noting that fewer than a dozen New York breweries sell their products at retail, with only a handful of hard ciders.

Peltz pointed to established microbrews around the state, such as Empire Brewing Co., Matt Brewing Co. and Lake Placid Craft Brewing Co., among several other breweries throughout the state, to show the tradition he hopes to follow with Pigs Head Farm.

"Our state has had a great history of brewing, and the industry has been a large contributor towards the economy," he said.

Jonathan Monfiletto may be reached at jonathan.monfiletto@lee.net or 283-1615.

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