Georgia breweries gear up for direct sales this Friday

What's changing and where to celebrate the passing of SB 85

Photo credit: Joeff Davis/CL file
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: Red Brick Brewing Co. is one of many local breweries celebrating the long-awaited passing of SB 85 into law.

Beer lovers, rejoice! Starting this Fri., Sept. 1, breweries throughout Georgia will be able to make direct sales, thanks to the passing of Senate Bill 85 into law. In simple terms, this bill allows breweries and distilleries to sell their product directly to customers from the brewery itself, rather than through middleman liquor and grocery stores. With the new law in place, brewery tours will no longer be a requirement.

"I think the bill makes a lot of sense," says Nathan Cowan, CEO of Eventide Brewing and a longtime supporter of the bill. "The way the law is structured right now, you can go to a brewery and sample the product. I feel like that's a less honest exchange." Indeed, the current laws (pre-SB 85) allow for consumption of beer within breweries, but the restrictions make brewers like Cowan feel they can't be as hospitable to their guests as they would like to be. "We've pigeon-holed ourselves into this conundrum where we can't call a spade a spade because of all the regulation," he says.

Cowan hopes that being able to sell beer directly to customers will allow breweries to engage directly with the consumer and become a place in the community where people go to spend time, similar to a local restaurant or bar. "When I go to breweries in other states, they have this open atmosphere," he says. "They're looked at as a place where people go to commune and get together. We can still give tours and educate the public about where their beer comes from, but we don't want them to feel corralled, like they have to quickly finish their 32 ounces of beer and then leave."

Many local breweries are upping their hours and offerings in response to the new law. Monday Night Brewing on the Westside and Arches Brewing in Hapeville, among others, are extending tasting room hours. Arches will now offer six-packs of beer for purchase at all times.

"This change alone will impact the beer culture in Georgia," says Ryan Fogelgren, Arches' co-founder. "Historically, breweries have been a shiny new object that's all about using your tickets or tokens as fast as you can to get your money's worth in the allotted time. This change will not only help breweries grow and thrive, but will also allow our communities to sit and enjoy a beer or two in a more leisurely way."

At Red Brick Brewing, one of Atlanta's veterans, the tap room will be open an hour earlier during the week and will stay open later on weekends. The old six-ticket "tour" model is switching to individual sales from an expanded beer list, available in flights, short pours and pints.

"We want people to be able to come visit and be able to try beers that they cannot get anywhere else," says Red Brick's field marketing director, Cameron Davis. "Now they will be able to buy up to a case to take home as well."

Of course, the new law extends well past Atlanta's borders. Over in Woodstock, Reformation Brewery is adding a full menu of beer available for direct purchase in its taproom, including flights, tasters, half pints and full pints.

"We're excited for the consumer to enjoy beer on their terms," says Reformation's marketing manager, Jessica Miller. "It's a great day for beer lovers, and we're glad to be able to serve our community in new ways.

Image Joeff Davis/CL file

Where to celebrate:

To celebrate this win for craft beer, many local breweries are throwing parties and releasing limited-edition brews this weekend. Check out these events below:

Eventide Brewing: Eventide will throw a "Happy New Beer" party at the brewery. Guests will have the opportunity to try several one-night-only beers including the 2016 Anniversary Ale, the 2014 Snowpocalypse Belgian Dark Strong and a one-off double IPA. At midnight, the whole party will toast together. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Thurs., Aug. 31. Eventide Brewing, 1015 Grant St. S.E. 404-907-4543. www.eventidebrewing.com.

Second Self Beer Company: Second Self is adding later hours at its taproom on Thurs., Aug. 31. Guests will get a full pint for free once the clock strikes midnight. The brewery will also be kicking off its first "Brewer Series" on Sept. 1 with 16 variations of the year-round A.T. aLe and eight new beers rolling out over the next month and a half. 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs., Aug. 31. Second Self Beer Company, 1317 Logan Circle N.W. 678-916-8035. www.secondselfbeer.com.

Red Brick Brewing Company: Red Brick's Georgia beer independence celebration on Sept. 1 will feature 20 different beers some new releases and some old favorites as well as food from Das BBQ and live music from Bluegrass Flashmob, the Howling Tongues and Kick the Robot. 4-10 p.m., Fri., Sept. 1 Red Brick Brewing Company, 2323 Defoor Hills Road N.W. 404-355-5558. www.redbrickbrewing.com.

Arches Brewing: To kick off Labor Day weekend, bid adieu to summer and say hello to Georgia's new brewery laws, Arches will throw an "End of Prohibition Party" and plans to release a handful of limited Belgians and one-off beers. There will also be live music and artisanal sausage sandwiches and sides from Choripan Sausage Co. 4-8 p.m. Fri., Sept. 1. Arches Brewing, 3361 Dogwood Drive, Hapeville. 678-653-2739. www.archesbrewing.com.

Wild Heaven Beer: At its "Late > Never" party, the brewery will say goodbye to its brewery tour pricing option and start selling beer by the glass along with live music, food from South of Heaven BBQ, a new limited beer menu and maybe a canned one-off. Dogs are welcome. 4-11 p.m. Fri., Sept. 1. Wild Heaven Beer, 135B Maple St., Decatur. 404-997-8589. www.wildheavenbeer.com.

Reformation Brewery: During "Free Beer Weekend," Woodstock's Reformation Brewery will be giving away one free beer per person with the purchase of a pint throughout Labor Day weekend. Patrons will also be able to try the debut of Barrel-Aged Jude, a limited-release Belgian-style tripel aged in bourbon barrels for over nine months. Fri., Sept 1, 5-10 p.m.; Sat., noon-10 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 3, 2-6 p.m. Reformation Brewery, 500 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock. 678-341-0828. www.reformationbrewery.com.

SweetWater Brewery: To introduce new hours, new tours and a new experience, SweetWater will host a kickoff weekend of celebrations. On Saturday, the Packway Handle Band will play bluegrass and Americana from 3-7 p.m. while Sweet Auburn BBQ serves food out of its truck. Take an $8 tour, purchase beer by the glass and watch sports on five new screens. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., Sept 2. SweetWater Brewery, 195 Ottley Drive N.E. 404-691-2537. www.sweetwaterbrew.com.

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