First Draft with Taylor Harper

Georgia beer lawyer helps local makers get legal

Perhaps Taylor Harper was destined to be an attorney. Born and raised in Atlanta, he fondly remembers when his mom went to Georgia State University College of Law when he was 7 years old. “Sometimes, when she couldn’t find a sitter, she would take me to class with her,” he says. “And some of those same professors taught me when I returned to attend GSU Law 20 years later.”

Following school and some time abroad, Harper realized that law can be used for good, to facilitate community — and that he wanted to dedicate his life to that. He now works at a law firm (Taylor, Feil, Harper, Lumsden & Hess, P.C.), where he’s been focusing on regulatory compliance and litigation in the beverage-alcohol industry. Put more simply for people who drink beer in Georgia, he’s trying to help fix some archaic laws. And he was successful recently, when he was one of the forces behind getting growler sales for Georgia brewpubs. (So far, Savannah, Alpharetta, and Sandy Springs have given it the green light, with more municipalities on the way.)

“I’ve always had an appreciation for good booze and a passion for law,” Harper says. “The beverage-alcohol practice presented the opportunity to combine those two affinities. The itch I’ve had to build communities, to facilitate a sense of community, is fulfilled by trying to help the craft beer industry in Georgia.”

Describe your first beer.

My first recollection of beer is my dad offering me a sip of Budweiser. I guess I must have been about 7. I recall spitting it out and saying, “Gross.” My dad responded with, “It does kind of taste like horse piss.”

Interestingly, it was in 2005 on my first trip to Kenya that I became good friends with real beer. I had a layover in Belgium, so I visited Bruges. I remember sitting in Market Square. I was sitting on the patio of a little restaurant eating steamed mussels. The waiter suggested that I try one of their Tripels. I can’t forget that first sip. A few weeks later, having acclimated to Nairobi, I became familiar with a local Kenyan Lager called Tusker, which is made by East African Breweries. The people of Kenya are proud of their local brew, and I began to realize more and more that people commune around beer, particularly local beer. From that point forward, I started paying closer attention to the beer I drink.

I’m sure there have been in some uncomfortable situations that you’ve run into with your work. Can you tell me about a beer-related one?

I have a beer blog, georgiacraftbeerlawyer.com. Let’s just say that there have been times where I typed before I thought, and that put me in an awkward position.

What attracted you to the brewpub growler cause?

A couple things: There’s no justifiable practical reason that brewpubs should be prohibited from selling growlers — particularly when restaurants are allowed to do so, depending upon the local jurisdiction’s alcohol ordinance. Also, state law already allowed brewpubs to do so. Government is often in the business of saying no. I thrive on helping government, or anyone for that matter, to see things differently and say yes.

What do you predict will happen to Georgia beer law in the next year or so?

I predict that legislation will be passed to allow breweries to make retail sales. I think the sales will be limited either by volume or limited to breweries producing fewer than X amount of barrels annually. Additionally, I think brewpubs will ramp up distribution. As of July 2015, brewpubs are allowed to can and bottle. Right now, brewpubs can produce up to 10,000 barrels. Of those 10,000 barrels, 5,000 may be sold to wholesalers for distribution into the marketplace. Thus, if a brewpub sold 5,000 to wholesalers, it would have a remaining 5,000 to sell for on-premises consumption. Five thousand for on-premise consumption is practically an unobtainable number. Brewpubs aren’t selling anywhere near that much for on-premise consumption. Given such, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a shift to increase the amount allowed for sale to wholesalers and a decrease in the amount allowed for on-premise consumption.




Wrecking Bar Brewpub Wood-Aged Wednesdays
When: Every Wednesday
Where: Wrecking Bar Brewpub
Price: Depends how many wood-aged beers you drink
Each week, the Little Five Points brewpub serves up a special small-batch beer that’s been aged in a wood barrel.

5 Seasons Cask Night
When: Every Thursday, 5:55-7:55 p.m.
Where: 5 Seasons North and Westside
Price: Depends how much cask ale you drink
Each week, a different guest taps a different keg of “real cask ale.”