Omnivore - Beer Jobs Bill drops at Gold Dome

Game on.


  • Courtesy Nancy Palmer

In last week’s Creative Loafing cover story, I explored a single question:

Why is Georgia one of the few states in the country that doesn’t allow its breweries to sell their beer directly to customers, refusing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars from its homegrown beer industry?

The answer is a complicated one, but it mostly comes down to Georgia’s wholesaler-friendly interpretation of the three-tier system of alcohol distribution. Oh, and all the money and influence the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association wields to insure that interpretation never changes. That’s the short version. Here’s the long one.

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Hoping to catch up with the rest of the country, the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild responded with GABeerJobs.com and the so-called Beer Jobs Bill. The former launched in October, and has collected more than 14,000 signatures from Georgia consumers who would like to buy beer directly from breweries. The latter became official as Senate Bill 63 yesterday.

“We are very encouraged by the large number of bi-partisan co-sponsors that support this bill already,” Creature Comforts Brewing Co. CEO Chris Herron says. “As we have learned through this process, this is only the very first step in what could be a very long and difficult fight, but we remain optimistic that our elected officials can ignore the misinformation out there and focus on the fact that this bill will bring more jobs to our state, increase tourism, and drive increased revenue.”

Introduced by State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna), SB 63 has 18 legislative co-sponsors, and aims to “provide for manufacturers of malt beverages to make limited retail sales of malt beverages under certain circumstances.”

“To me it’s about job growth and small business development, allowing for some of these small brewers to be able to get their product into consumers hands in limited quantities,” Hill told WABE yesterday.

More specifically, SB 63 would allow for brewpubs to sell up to 144 ounces of beer on-premise, per person, per day, for off-premise consumption. (Think: 2 growlers, or the equivalent of a 12 pack.) The bill would also allow for 144 ounces of on-premise sales for off-premise consumption at breweries (growlers, bottles, cans, etc.), as well as 72 ounces of on-premises consumption at breweries (the equivalent of half a dozen 12-ounce pours). Under current laws, Georgia brewpubs can sell beer in-house but not to-go, and Georgia breweries can’t sell beer to anyone except their distributor.

“We feel like the bill we’ve crafted is very reasonable and takes into consideration the concerns of wholesalers and retailers,” Georgia Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Nancy Palmer tells Creative Loafing. “Most states around us have unlimited pint and package sales. This bill is a very small ask in comparison.”

This morning, the bill is set to go through first readers and will then get assigned to a committee. It will likely start in the Regulated Industries Committee, which is chaired by State Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), followed by the Rules Committee, which is chaired by State Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga).

“These are exciting times for Georgia and our efforts to modernize beer laws and catch up with the rest of the country,” Georgia Craft Brewers Guild president and co-founder/president of Terrapin Beer Company, John Cochran says. “I urge everyone to contact their state senator and ask them to support SB 63—the Beer Jobs Bill. The bill as written will bring tourism and economic development to GA and is a win for everyone—breweries, distributors, retailers, and consumers.”