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New Rules Ease Restrictions on Georgia Craft Breweries and Distilleries

But, advocates of the state's craft beverage industry say there's much more to be done.

Bottles of vodka being filled at Old 4th Distillery on Edgewood Avenue.
Bottles of vodka being filled at Old 4th Distillery on Edgewood Avenue.
Jonathan Phillips/Eater Atlanta

The two sides of Georgia's ongoing booze fight have come to an agreement that will avoid new legislation this year, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The deal will change rules so breweries and distilleries can operate as they did following the passage of a new law in July, and before a stricter interpretation was issued by the Georgia Department of Revenue in September.

The law passed last year allowed Georgia breweries and distilleries to include samples of their products as part of paid tours. However, the Department of Revenue later ruled businesses couldn't charge varying prices for tours, and it limited the amount and types of products they could offer to customers. Advocates for the craft beverage industry were furious and felt the state government was in the pocket of the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association, which is threatened by the idea of independent beverage companies selling their products directly to consumers.

Before the deal was reached Tuesday, craft beverage advocates were pressing lawmakers for new legislation in 2016. The new rules, which are conditional on no new legislation being introduced this year, per the AJC:

  • Allow brewers again to sell brewery tours at variable prices based on the kind of beer offered.
  • Allow special events at breweries and distilleries.
  • Let brewers, distilleries and wholesalers use social media to alert the public about where to buy their products or advertise special events.
  • Allow third parties to sell tour tickets.
  • Let breweries and distilleries sell food on site.

While wholesalers are praising the deal, those following the fight from the other side aren't as thrilled.

"I think it is time to take the gloves off. It is time to get many of these issues before a judge," writes one attorney and craft beverage advocate. "It is time to file lawsuits and declaratory judgments. It is time to get these matters out of the hands of politicians. And when the Department and the AG's office is tied up in lawsuits (spending tax payer money), remember to kindly thank your neighborhood beer wholesaler and politician."

As for what the new rules mean in the immediate future, Jason Santamaria, co-founder of Second Self Beer Company in Westside, told Eater Atlanta customers will have a few more choices and events to attend at his brewery.

"The new rules say we can go back to the way things were before the Department of Revenue bulletin in September 2015," Santamaria said. "We plan on having more 'souvenir' tours available when we open the tasting room, allowing our customers to have more choices in the beers they can take home. With the addition of food sales, we will also have more vendors come in. Last year we had a few pop ups but we can now look at doing more sit down dinners with specialty beer offerings."

Craig Moore, co-founder of Old 4th Distillery told Eater Atlanta the new rules should give his business more options as well.

"The new compromise just came out yesterday and we are still reading through it on what it means for us, but it looks like the original intent of the bill is being reinstated," Moore said. "So, we can have variable prices for tours now and use third party sites like Groupon and Scout Mob to sell tickets to our tastings and tours. It also looks like the possibility for onsite events with food got a bit easier."