A win for Georgia brewers!
You may have heard some rumblings of change in the Georgia craft beer industry during the past few months. Over the legislative session, the Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild – comprised of almost 40 craft breweries – dropped a bill at the capitol. Its something we’ve done before, but we have never been able to successfully pass- until now! SB 63 (modified) passed through the Senate, House, and was recently signed by Governor Deal updating the post-prohibition era beer laws in Georgia. Although the bill was significantly watered down, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
The current law governing Georgia breweries allows for production breweries to be open up to two hours a day for tours and tastings. The tour is free and so are the samples, but if you would like to purchase a souvenir pint glass you may do so and receive up to 32 ounces per person per day. No beer is to be sold. Georgia is one of FIVE states in the U.S. that doesn’t allow beer sales of any kind from a manufacturer. Each state touching our state lines allows for brewers to sell their products right from the source. Georgia wineries can sell samples, glasses, bottles, and cases right from their doors – brewers have never been given the same treatment.
Last year, the Guild dropped a bill mimicking our neighbors in South Carolina’s laws at the time. The requested amount was double the quantities of SB 63. Since that time, South Carolina has updated their laws even further allowing brewers to sell more and even have food onsite. Needless to say, Georgia legislatures didn’t move on that.
The Guild decided to take another shot at it this year. The original bill (SB 63) proposed for Georgia production breweries to be able to sell up to 72 ounces of beer onsite and to sell limited quantities, 144 ounces of beer to go. It also would allow for brewpubs in Georgia to package their beer in cans/bottles and to sell up to 144 ounces of beer to go. We were told it would never happen. This bill would never even make it out of the Senate. Changes were made – cutting the quantities in half. Other changes removed brewpubs from the bill completely. The bill went back and forth and was modified several times until it became what it is today. I’m going to go over this new law – but I would suggest getting a pen, some paper, maybe even a calculator. It’s a little convoluted and of course will take serious time to implement as the norm.
In Georgia, we won’t be selling beer. Not a drop can be sold. However, the new law will allow for brewers to sell tours. This is something that was previously required to be free. Beer brewed on site is now considered a “souvenir” which can be included in a tour level to be consumed on or offsite in limited quantities. Onsite, we were given an extra 4 ounces– now you can come enjoy a tour that includes 36 ounces of beer onsite. The to go portions require that you take a physical tour of the facility and are limited to 72 ounces per person per day. Although this isn’t the 144 we were initially after – at one point in the process this number was cut down to 64 ounces and limited to a single container. This would remove bottles or cans altogether. We were able to remove the words “single container” and bring it back up to 72 ounces, which is equivalent to one six-pack of beer. Brewpubs were unfortunately removed from the to go beer section. However, they are now able to package their beers in cans and bottles.
Here’s where its gets complicated. Not everyone packages the same. Here at Southbound we can our brews, we have draft beer, and we also package our specialty beers in 22 ounce bottles. Cans are generally 12 ounces, but there are also 16 ounce cans. Some people use 750 ml bottles and some people even use “stubbys” which are 11 ounce bottles. There are growlers that come in both 32 and 64 ounces. If you can have up to 72 ounces there are tons of potential combinations. This is also assuming you aren’t changing the way you operate your onsite pours. Do you want a tour that comes with 3- 12 ounce pours or 6- 6 ounce ones? Maybe you don’t want a tour that comes with onsite pours at all and only to go. If you go through all the potential combinations there are actually hundreds, which makes explaining to the public and implantation at the brewery a little more difficult.
Although this is complex it will most certainly help financially. Small breweries that usually take years to hit a break even point will now be able to hire more people to assist with sales in the market and production on site. We will be able to buy more tanks and create more innovative beer styles that could have previously been too costly to brew. The ability to take a beer home and share it will allow others to try a beer and hear about an experience they may not have been able to before. This will trickle down and increase sales in the market because more people will be sharing the brews they love so much. It’s a win-win for all.
The law goes into affect on July 1st here in Georgia. Given, that the state Department of Revenue creates the needed permit by then, you will be able to visit your local brewery and take a tasty “souvenir” home with you. All of this was because of the incredible work done by everyone at the Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild, Thrash Halliburton, our bill Sponsor Hunter Hill, and the many folks who called, wrote, donated, and signed petitions for us. We are grateful to all of you for helping us move the state of Georgia a little closer to being on an even playing field with the rest of the nation’s breweries. Southbound will celebrate our 2nd birthday this month on March 22 here at the brewery. We celebration will feature The Heavy Pets and 12 styles of beer. Next year, you can plan on coming here for our 3rd birthday and bringing home a special “souvenir” brew to commemorate the night.