The South has a stereotype of slowness, and hey, we love to take our time just like anyone else. Yet, we do not apply this lackadaisical attitude to our laws — especially arcane and oppressive laws. Here’s a good example: For some reason, Georgia is one of two state’s left in America where breweries cannot sell/serve beer to customers directly — like in a taproom — ye old Mississippi is the other one. In fact, Georgia has really become a battleground for trying to revise regulations — a multi-year struggle by the government (Department of Revenue), the brewers and the state’s powerful alcohol wholesalers.
Last year, begrudgingly, the state allowed breweries to sell beer via a dumb tour loophole scheme. The new rules allow brewers to sell tours of their facilities at different prices based on the quality and amount of beer customers receive as “free souvenirs.” That’s so obtuse and complicated. In response, we here at CBB are offering an alternative idea to this bizarro law: Allow craft breweries to sell draft pints in taprooms and sell a certain quantity of beer directly to customers.
We hear monocles cracking all over the Peach State.
Even better, someone has already thought of this (and more). Last year, a Georgia Beer Bill, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), was filed in the state House. The chumps in Atlanta passed on it. Here’s a summary of last year’s bill via Beer Guys Radio:
2016 Georgia Beer Bill Overview
What the bill would allow brewers to do:
- Offer direct sales at breweries via the operation of a tasting room as well as retail to-go sales
- Operate a restaurant / sell food at tasting rooms
- Operate up to five (5) additional tasting rooms in the state
- Self-distribute up to 5,000 barrels per year
- Provide information to consumers on where to purchase their products
- Leave a distributor and sign with another, providing certain conditions are met
- There are provisions in the bill for brewpubs as well, and that will be addressed in detail once the bill is filed
- Sources in the industry insinuate we may also see changes to rules applying to employees of craft brewers
Georgia’s House of Representatives will reconvene today at 11 a.m. for its 5th Legislative Day. You see, the General Assembly, consisting of 180 Georgia Representatives and 56 Georgia Senators, gathers inside the gold dome of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. These legislators will work “vigorously” to go over state budgets and discuss proposed bills and resolutions. Each session lasts 40 days, but of course that doesn’t mean 40 consecutive days (heavens no). We and the beer industry in general are watching intently to see whether Georgia’s beer wholesalers, craft brewers and government officials can start to consider a compromise on the state’s ban of allowing breweries to sell beer directly to consumers in those 40 days.
In the end, it’s just going to chase business out of the state. Here’s an example: Mark Walters is the brewmaster for Savannah River Brewing Co., the second and newest brewery planned to open up in Augusta in ye new January 2017. Read what Walters said from an article on wrdw12:
He said it is strange Georgia still has this law to prohibit selling beer at a brewery.
“It’s a little unusual especially with the way the craft brewing industry has been going,” Walters said.
Walter said he and the others opening Savannah River Brewing Company loved Augusta, but it did take time to decide if they should open it in Georgia or across the river.
“It’s a very difficult decision when you’re trying to locate a brewery and here in Augusta we were so close to the South Carolina state line,” Walters said.
You got lucky this time, Georgia. Time to get your shit together.