Today is a good day for beer in Georgia.
Today Senate Bill 85 goes into effect. Before this bill, signed by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal in May and finally official today, breweries and distilleries did not have the right to sell directly from their physical locations.
Before this now celebrated “Hancock,” packaged beer could only be bought where distributed by wholesalers. You couldn't score a fresh six directly from the source. No can releases, no growlers, no 'hey I'm in Atlanta and I want to make sure I get some Eventide so I'll just go to the brewery and get it right from the source. No road trips with stops along the way, no 'remember that time we got Tropicalia right at Creature Comforts and it was like nectar from the gods?' Nope.
Now whether by tour, having a pint at the bar or simply coming to the brewery to get beer, anyone can buy up to a case to go (a 24 pack of 12-ounce cans or bottles). Until now, breweries had to find loopholes in existing laws in order to send their guests off with, at the most, a six-pack. And even to do that, they had to say the refreshing sextet was a “souvenir” for buying a certain tour package. No stopping on the way home, you actually had to go through the motions of a tour.
Prior to this monumental day, Georgia’s laws were often thought to be archaic by those living in other booming beer states, and even now the new rules aren't as relaxed. Of course, there are still some limitations. Breweries can only sell up to 3,000 barrels of their beer annually regarding direct purchases. For Georgia distilleries, the limit is three 750 ml bottles of liquor for off-site consumption; their limit is set at 500 barrels of spirits per year.
Regardless, this new law is a major win.
Starting from the consumer standpoint, they won't have to go find an off-premise retailer to buy a beer they fell in love with immediately after a brewery visit. And that's assuming that particular variety was even packaged and distributed. A brewery isn't necessarily inclined to package a small batch, creative beer if they can't sell it out of their own space.
Add this to the fact that beer at the brewery is bottled or canned at its freshest state, something like a limited edition Three Taverns Crave IPA purchased by the case load would be comparable to the notorious briefcase in Pulp Fiction when the fridge opens.
The last most significant law change in Georgia’s craft beer scene was the passing of House Bill 645 raising the alcohol by volume limit of beer from six to 14% in 2004. Now with SB85, more jobs will be created and a new road leading to significantly more revenue has been paved.
The fall of 2017 is going to be a monumental time for existing operations and those aspiring to be. Breweries including Wild Heaven, Creature Comforts, and Monday Night currently have expansions under construction, while others are on the verge of opening its doors for the first time; this includes Good Word, New Realm, From The Earth, and Variant to name a few.
Ultimately, after years of petitions and submissions backed by especially the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, today is for beer toddlers awaiting their sudsy Santa Claus.
But to get their perspective first hand, we talked to representatives of various breweries and brewpubs throughout the Peach State directly. Check out their feelings on the passing of the bill, but also follow the links find out what celebrations they have in store on September 1st including new beer releases, limited edition bottles, live music and more.
Ultimately, between the parties and the future innovation, this Friday is going to be epic for Georgia’s craft beer scene.
Here's where the parties are, and why:
“These law changes have been a long time coming and will only elevate Georgia’s craft beer game. I’m expecting to do more small-batch, crazy stuff at Monday Night. This will give the craft beer drinker more choices, better options and a bigger voice in influencing the type of beers breweries are making.”
Jonathan Baker, ‘Marketing Guy and Master of Mind Control,’ Monday Night Brewing
“The new laws will increase creative opportunities, allowing us to brew more unique beers to try out in the tasting room. This will not only foster more innovation in the Georgia beer scene, but also create a revenue stream to hire more employees and make equipment upgrades. This will give Georgia beer drinkers more choices, and continue to raise the bar for all Georgia breweries.”
Steve Anderson, Brewmaster, Dry County Brewing Company
“We are really looking forward to Bill 85 going into effect; we could not have timed our opening better with the changing laws this Friday. It will allow us to offer the freshest product to our guests. When dealing directly with the consumer, you have better control over your product. This will be a great revenue source for breweries and distilleries as well as the positive impact it will have on the industry. We are excited to offer our customers world-class beers in the comfort of their own home."
Tim Stevens, Owner, From The Earth Brewing Company
“SweetWater is so appreciative of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild’s efforts to update laws to get our state on par with the rest of the country. The new laws will create new jobs, greater flexibility in operations, and more interaction between breweries and customers; it’s a positive step forward for Georgia and all of our breweries.”
Tucker Berta Sarkisian, Spokesperson, SweetWater Brewing Company
“I am looking forward to producing more creative beers on a small scale and providing an experience for our patrons that is focused on our beer rather than a tour of our facility. For Service Brewing, this means an opportunity to organically grow while making an economic impact that will benefit our community and industry.”
Kevin Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Service Brewing Company
“September 1st marks a huge milestone in Georgia history as we finally get to join the ‘cool kids club’ of building small business and ensuring the craft beer movement in the South. We are ecstatic to be hosting some fantastic funky bands from our great state which will get you dancing all night. We are also honored to have the Mayor of Gainesville and Governor Nathan Deal here to celebrate this monumental day. Great beer, great food and funky music! What’s not to like? Here's to Georgia craft! Cheers!”
Dave Lawson, Sales Leader, Left Nut Brewing Company
“For us, honestly, we're excited to offer a more relaxed drinking environment. For so long it's been this anxiety-driven culture, like ‘Use my tickets and tokens as fast as I can.’ Visiting the West Coast, you see such a more enjoyable environment where families, friends and communities come together to have a beer. It's just a different vibe which is more in line with what craft beer is all about. We're excited for that.”
Ryan Fogelgren, Co-Founder, Arches Brewing
“We're excited for the consumer to enjoy beer on their terms. It's a great day for beer lovers and we're glad to be able to serve our community in new ways. It's a historic moment and one that is long overdue. The truth is that we don't really know how this will affect breweries, so there’s some nervous excitement for sure. Our focus is on continuing to invest in the experience we offer to our community and let the consumer speak to the value on their terms. We've expanded hours and hired new staff in advance of September 1st and hope that we will need to hire more in the near future.”
Jessica Miller, Marketing Manager, Reformation Brewery
“We’re happy about the passage of SB-85 as it allows us to provide a more open and clear transaction with the consumer. Now guests at our tasting room can buy just beer, rather than the complicated tasting and tour package we were required to offer. Mostly though, we are very excited about the change in the law because of how it will allow us to restructure our tasting room concept. We’re nestled in a really great community – Grant Park – and it’s our goal to provide a family-friendly environment that our neighbors can walk to and enjoy. Our mission is to provide more than just great beer, but also a place for engagement with the community. The hope is that the new law will allow us more flexibility in our partnerships with local business and organization and, along with the added attractions of The Beacon development and The Beltline located right next door, give us more opportunity for our tasting room to be open to the public."
Nathan Cowan, Co-Owner and CEO, Eventide Brewing