Benjamin Franklin, the quintessential Pennsylvanian, never actually uttered a quote that widely is attributed to him: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." (In a letter to a friend, he actually was talking about rainfall's role in producing wine.)

Even so, modern Pennsylvanians clearly appreciate the sentiment. Brewing is a growth industry in the state and residents of the commonwealth, more so than residents of other states, have a taste for craft brews made close to home.

A study by the state Legislative Budget and Finance Committee of the brewery industry's impact found that more than 100 licensed breweries had a direct impact of $1.1 billion in 2010, including 10,000 jobs and $296 million wages.

The impact of the beer industry as a whole was much greater: Members of the industry and their employees earned $2.2 billion while also paying $491 million in federal and $365 million in state and local taxes. Beer sales generated $156 million in federal taxes and $187 million in state and local consumption taxes. Total economic output was about $6.9 billion 10th among the states.

Craft beers - small-batch, high-quality beers most often produced by small breweries - account for 20 percent of the Pennsylvania, compared with the national average of 5 to 7 percent.

That explains why craft beer brewery employment has increased by 10 percent each year since 2007 as revenue has increased by 30 percent per year over the same period. In 2011, Pennsylvania breweries produced 4.3 million 31-gallon barrels, up 18 percent from 2010.

The success of Pennsylvania craft brewers is remarkable given that in some ways, state laws regarding beer distribution and sales work against them.

Those laws date to the era when mass-market beer, brewed mostly at out-of-state industrial breweries, was sold by the case through local retail outlets called "distributors."

Craft brews are more expensive than mass-produced brands, and are marketed not so much by price as by distinct characteristics. Yet distributors remain restricted to selling by the case, and smaller quantities may be sold only at certain stores and bars, often at a premium.

As lawmakers prepare to deal with the Corbett administration's impending plan to modernize liquor and wine distribution and sales, they should to prepare to do likewise for beer. A modernized law would serve not only consumers, but one of Pennsylvania's growth industries.