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Georgia beer bill now law, plus what’s next for breweries

Georgia governor Nathan Deal has signed Senate Bill 85 into law, The state’s breweries will soon finally have the freedoms they have been so desperately seeking. The only downside? It doesn’t go into effect into September 1st.

Until the passage of this bill, breweries selling beer directly to consumers was illegal. In all reality, the way breweries were forced to do this is nothing short of confusing and downright wrong. If you live in a state where you can enjoy a pint directly at the source, consider yourself lucky. Most in Georgia sure haven’t been able to.

First of all, breweries have had to pay taxes on the beer they produce to the government. They are allowed to sell tours and give away 36 ounces on site, and depending on your tour price point, up to 72 ounces of “souvenir beer” to-go. In theory, no one is buying beer, just tours.

From a tax standpoint, the brewery pays production taxes, collects taxes on tours, and is forced to pay taxes on the souvenir beer going out the door, even though it’s illegal to sell it to the consumer. Sound messed up? You aren’t the only one.

In the meantime, it has been perfectly legal for Georgia wineries to sell wine by the glass or bottles to-go from their facilities.

Blame has been passed around for years, but many point fingers at the wholesalers and their unfounded fear of losing money when breweries can direct sell. SB 85 is a compromise that pleases both the Georgia Wholesalers and craft breweries.

As of September 1st, breweries will finally be able to direct sell to consumers. The bill will allow a consumer to purchase up to a case a day on site, plus sell beers by the pint on site. No more tour/souvenir red tape.

Beer Street Journal has reached out to Georgia breweries to see what they have in store for the law change. Thanks to the proximity of Asheville to Atlanta, many of the state’s breweries are planning to adopt an “Asheville” model of operation. That’s long taproom hours, pint sales, bottle offerings, etc.

SweetWater – The state’s largest is planning longer taproom hours, beer sales by the pint, and expanded take away sales.
Monday Night Brewing – Is opening The Garage, a second facility on Atlanta’s belt line. With both facilities in mind, the brewery plans on hiring 7-10 more full time employees, and up to 25 more part timers.
Terrapin Beer Co.  – Pint sales are first in mind. The brewery is meeting today about the new law.
Wild Heaven – Plans on overhauling the Avondale taproom to make it a daily hangout space, outdoor improvements, plus a more aggressive single barrel taproom series. The brewery is also building a second Georgia location. Expect more employee hires, and beers by the pint.

According to the Brewer’s Association, Georgia ranks 49th in breweries per capita, with 0.7 breweries per 100,000 people (last updated in April, 2016).

Image: Beer Street Journal / SweetWater

Georgia beer statistics, 2016. Graphic: Brewer’s Association


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