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Proposed Legislation Would Allow Georgia Breweries to Sell Directly to Customers [Updated]

A new bill has been introduced in the Georgia Senate

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Inside the tasting room at Second Self Beer Company.
The tasting room at Second Self Beef Company.
Annalise Kaylor

A week after some Georgia lawmakers hinted a compromise between the state’s brewers and wholesalers could be in the works, Senate Bill 85 has been introduced. The proposed state law would allow breweries to sell their products on site. The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Rick Jeffares of McDonough.

If the bill is signed into law, licensed breweries will be able to sell up to 3,000 barrels of their beer directly to customers, according to an announcement from the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. Patrons will be able to consume beverages on the premises and take up to one case of beer to go. This will end the practice of breweries selling patrons tours and offering samples as part of the package. Brewpubs will be allowed to sell their products to go as well.

The Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association showed its support for the legislation on Twitter.

“The business leaders of the GBWA have been crucial in this process,” Nancy Palmer, executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, said in a prepared statement.

In January 2015, brewers pushed for the state legislature to pass the so-called Beer Jobs Bill, which, among other things, would have allowed them to bypass wholesalers. It would have put an end to the tour charade and let thirsty Atlantans purchase up to 72 ounces of beer for on-site consumption and take up to 144 ounces to go. Wholesalers lined up against the bill, and it was gutted before becoming law. The state department of revenue quickly rolled back the few advancements that were achieved, leaving state brewers frustrated and confused. In January 2016, lawmakers enacted new rules that eased some burdens, but industry advocates saw the changes as only small steps in the right direction. It remains to be seen if S.B. 85 will be passed into law in its current form.

While this legislation addresses operating procedure for Georgia’s breweries, there’s no word on whether state law could be updated to ease similar regulations on the state’s distilleries. Further details were not immediately available.

Update: January 26, 4:50 p.m. Brian Purcell, owner of Three Taverns Craft Brewery in Decatur, tells Eater Atlanta the bill has Georgia’s beer scene “on the verge of a new era.”

“Suggestions for this new bill, which will allow Georgia breweries to sell beer by the pint and beer-to-go for the first time in our state history, were championed by both brewers and wholesalers. And now with full support from key legislators, including Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and the leaders of the GBWA, the passage of this new bill will change the game for Georgia beer makers and beer drinkers forever,” Purcell said in an email.

“In a short time, in a difficult environment, our budding industry is gaining in reputation and beginning to push out some of the best beer in the Southeast. We may sill rank 48th in breweries per capita, but with our present momentum and the new advantages afforded if this bill becomes law, Georgia will be an unstoppable force in the craft brewing industry.”

Update: January 27, noon. Take a look at the first reader summary of Senate Bill 85 below.

Georgia Craft Brewers Guild and Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association Find Common Ground [Official]
Are Georgia’s Booze Laws About to Ease up on Brewers and Distillers? [EATL]
All Beer Coverage [EATL]