Support Georgia Brewer's - GA BEER JOBS BILL

This week marks a huge milestone for craft breweries in the state of Georgia with the drop of the Georgia Beer Jobs bill, SB 63, at the capitol.  The bill focuses on modernizing the current state laws, which have remained virtually the same since the repeal of Prohibition. 

The three-tier system of alcohol was then enacted with the hope of preventing large breweries from creating monopolies. The three tiers are producers, distributors, and retailers.  The structure essentially states that producers can sell their product to wholesale distributors who then sell to retailers. While this system has an incredible amount of value, there are exceptions to the system throughout the nation, which help the craft beer industry thrive. Georgia is one of only a few states left that doesn’t allow for some form of direct sales.  Each state touching Georgia’s borders allow some form of these sales and each of these states are quickly surpassing Georgia in the craft beer world.

Currently, a patron can walk into a Georgia brewery during a public tour and tasting within a given two-hour period each day. They are able to sample up to 32 oz. of the craft brews produced on site while taking a tour, but are not allowed to pay for these samples. The work around in the law allows for samples to be served in a souvenir pint glass, which can be sold.  However, if the patron chooses not purchase the glass, the samples must still be given for free. No samples, pints, growlers, or six packs can be purchased from your favorite local brewery.  Interestingly enough, Georgia wineries are currently allowed to do all of these previously mentioned and more.

Although Georgia brewers have made attempts in the past to modernize the current Georgia laws, this year things are a bit different. The Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild, consisting of over 35 breweries and brewpubs in the state, decided to take a leap and hire a lobbying team. This team will walk the bill through the capitol along with the lead bill sponsor Senator Hunter Hill.  Senator Hill is the Vice Chair of the caucus, has two breweries, one brewpub, and two distributors in his district.  The Georgia Bill Jobs bill proposes that breweries will be allowed to sell up to 72 oz. per person for on-site consumption and 144 oz. to go for off-site consumption. It also will allow for brewpubs (currently able to sell beer on-site) to sell 144 oz. to go for off-site consumption and to package their brews in either cans or bottles.  Brewpubs currently are unable to package beer in any form but kegs.

Some may wonder what the fuss is all about. Why do Georgia brewers want the privilege to sell their product out of their facility? The answer is simple.  For us it’s the ability to bring in extra income to help us grow. South Carolina recently changed their laws allowing for pints and limited to go sales for off-premise consumption. Right now, there are 20 breweries open in South Carolina. Over half of those opened after the passage of the pint law.  The South Carolina Brewer’s Guild conducted an economic impact study surveying the 12 new breweries for economic data, including capital investment and jobs created.

According to Beer of South Carolina, “the survey showed that the initial economic impact of these 12 new breweries is $13.7M in South Carolina, accounting for nearly 140 jobs, $5.5M in wages, and providing an overall economic impact rise in craft beer in the state of 5%. The latest economic numbers indicated that South Carolina sees about a $254M economic impact from craft beer, with about 3,000 jobs directly attributable to it. With the new survey results and the additional taproom sales from existing breweries, that number should now sit around $275M.” That’s pretty incredible.  Not only are the breweries thriving, but also are the local bars and restaurants being serviced by their distributors. These extra funds have made it possible for these breweries to expand, hire more people, and produce more beer.

Currently the state of Georgia is ranked 44th out of 50 in terms of economic impact in the craft beer industry. This same industry contributed $33.9 Billion to the U.S. Economy in 2012, along with more than 360,000 jobs nationwide.  The Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild decided to conduct its own study to see how this would positively impact our great state. According to this study, “If Georgia were able to raise its per capita beer production up to the national average (currently, the Peach State is 47th out of 50), that uptick in production would result in a projected 1,459 jobs, and a $375 million economic impact.”

Another point to note is that many huge West Coast breweries who look to open second locations on the East Coast immediately eliminate Georgia as an option due to the current state regulations. Over the past year 4 of the top 25 breweries in the U.S. have opened other locations on our coast in surrounding states resulting in a missed opportunity to bring in over $360 million to Georgia. I say missed opportunity – but technically it wasn't an opportunity at all since our state wasn't even considered.

In conclusion, the craft beer industry in Georgia will simply fall behind without modernizing these laws. These needed changes will provide jobs, increase tourism, allow us to grow our small businesses that contribute to the economy, and bring in new larger businesses that can do the same.  This is a win-win for every party involved and can ensure that your favorite local breweries will continue to produce more of your favorite brews.  We ask that you show your support by visiting and help bring awareness to modernizing our current laws. With any luck, we look forward to sharing a full pint with you at the brewery soon!