City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Beer Town: A Love letter to Georgia craft brewers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s chief dining critic, John Kessler, recently wrote “An open letter to Atlanta chefs,” prompting an avalanche of lively discussions that spilled over to local and national blogs and websites.

Kessler’s provocative commentary asked chefs to consider 10 requests that could “make Atlanta a better place to chow down.”

Among the requests: “please work on your execution”; “show some wit”; “work toward the new fusion”; “make one thing really well”; “surprise us.”

I’m happy to report, there’s no need to write anything but a love letter to Georgia’s craft brewers.

They’re already doing all those things and more — making award-winning beers with plenty of wit, trying new stylistic fusions, producing signature best-sellers, and coming up with surprising one-off creations.


And compared with the competition in other dynamic beer regions, they’re doing it backwards, in high heels, while hog-tied by government regulations.

Brewers in nearby North Carolina enjoy all sorts of freedoms and advantages that Georgia brewers can only dream about.

North Carolina brewers can sell the beer they make in multiple ways, including “self-distribution” to restaurants, bars and stores. They can fill to-go jugs of draft beer, known as “growlers,” and they can operate brewery tasting rooms that are essentially beer bars.

Asheville, in particular, has spawned a booming craft beer scene that reigns as the top BeerCity USA 2010, according to an online poll conducted by Charlie Papazian, founder of the Great American Beer Festival, the American Homebrewers Association and the Association of Brewers.

What may be most surprising, though, is that Georgia’s winemakers have the same advantages as North Carolina’s brewers, plus a few others.

Frogtown Cellars near Dahlonega boasts on its website: “We offer many choices for our patrons. We provide wine tastings at our bar. There you can also get wine to enjoy at the winery and take in the beautiful views from our facility. You can also buy wine at the bar to enjoy at home. We serve panini sandwiches every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We also serve brunch on select Sundays.”

Frogtown has plans to open three new tasting rooms in Dawsonville, Hahira and Helen.

More power to it and other Georgia wineries. Georgia needs the tourism and revenue that a mini Napa could create.

But Georgia brewers are left to wonder why they’re not recipients of similar economic opportunities. And those inequities aren’t lost on Georgia beer lovers.

Georgians for World-Class Beer, the grass-roots organization behind the passage of the 2004 law that allowed higher-alcohol beer to be sold in the state, has been revived and is working on a list of issues. And you could say it’s set to offer an open letter to Georgia lawmakers and bureaucrats.


Georgians for World Class Beer Meet and Greet, 1 p.m. Feb. 5, Five Seasons Westside, 1000 Marietta St. N.W., Atlanta, 404-875-3232,

18 comments Add your comment

Crawford Moran

January 31st, 2011
12:28 pm

We love you too, Bob.

Ted Hull

January 31st, 2011
12:39 pm

It’s unfortunate that the GA code puts wine in a different category than beer in terms of local makers. It also isn’t fair that GA winemakers talk smack about the breweries, when they have a distinctly greater level of freedom to operate.

The world didn’t end with beers over 6%. We just need to show that giving our brewers greater freedom to sell growlers and do limited self distribution isn’t going to cause the sky to fall, either.

Support your local brewer.

January 31st, 2011
12:42 pm

Spread the word.

Thirsty South

January 31st, 2011
12:53 pm

A good cause indeed, and cheers to Georgia’s brewers for fightin the good fight !

Raging Burrito

January 31st, 2011
1:01 pm

The more brewing freedom the better! We need growler sales in Ga!


January 31st, 2011
1:05 pm

As long as the number one lobby in Ga is from the wholesalers, I doubt we’ll see many more freedoms for brewers.

With the population size of metro Atlanta alone craft brewing should be booming, but we’ve got what, 4 or 5 package breweries in the whole state?

We need to get these archaic laws reformed so that we can entice some of the craft beer boom to our state. We need to make it easier for these operations to get started.

Instead, our brewers are starting their businesses in North Carolina. Nantahala Brewing Co could have been a Ga brewery.

Jason LeBlanc

January 31st, 2011
1:30 pm

I actually sent an email to my state representative this morning just before I read this. I will send another with a link to this article.

Jennifer O'Connell

January 31st, 2011
1:38 pm

Thank you Bob for getting the word out about the GWCB meeting.

This is not going to be an easy or quick fight but together the consumers, along side the brewers can make positive changes happen.


January 31st, 2011
3:20 pm

Well said, Bob! Having just come from NC after nearly three years of enjoying self-distribution, beer festivals and growler sales, it is hobbling the small business breweries of Georgia to not have this or marketing freedom enjoyed in NC and other progressive states. Our brewers in GA have been fined and threatened with brewers license loss for violating an insanely stringent interpretation of three tier laws. Laws that the small GA wineries are not subject to because they are “a georgia agricultural product”. The disparity of this situation has made me ill for years and after 17 years of professional brewing, I shall not even consider bringing my own business to this state until this dried up old corpse of prohibition and archaic laws are finally buried with the help of the New Georgians for World Class Beer. It’s not going an easy or short project, but it is a necessity for freedom of choice for the brewer and the consumer. After all, it took 8 years to get hi-grav beer legalized. The Cask Ale Tasting last weekend was a testament to just how great,creative and enjoyable beers can be.

BillDawg Fan

February 1st, 2011
5:46 am

Whats wrong with Bud Lite?


February 1st, 2011
10:29 am

Nothing is wrong with Bud Light. There is nothing wrong with a Big Mac, either. But I would not want to go the rest of my life eating nothing but Big Macs and drinking nothing but Bud Light.

Hungry Gringo

February 1st, 2011
3:44 pm

Does the new Georgians for World Class Beer have a website or meetings? The 14% alcohol limit is just as stupid and arbitrary as the 6% limit. I need my Dogfish Head 120 IPA, and I want to see if Sweetwater can beat it given the chance.


February 1st, 2011
4:30 pm

I think its a real shame that I live in a state where its not against the law to marry your cousin but its against the law to buy beer on Sundays or self-distribute. Ridiculous.


February 1st, 2011
10:27 pm

Nothing but love for GA breweries! Soldier on!

do not resuscitate

February 1st, 2011
10:49 pm

Doesn’t this seem like a way to grow GA’s economy? Should be a no brainer to me.


February 2nd, 2011
12:06 am

Isn’t the double standard in GA regarding winemakers and brewers obvious enough to you folks? The bible says that Jesus drank wine, not beer or hard liquor. Heck, he was a winemaker himself! That explanation seems good enough for our wise and benevolent state legislators and it should be good enough for you.

Joshua Patterson

February 2nd, 2011
5:50 am

If you are ever at one of the ever growing number of restauraunts that carry Jailhouse, try one of their brews. My favorite is the slammer wheat. Better yet, if you are in Henry County, come to Hampton and tour the place. It is a really neat experience, I have been 3 times.


February 2nd, 2011
10:04 am

Gringo: Georgians for World Class Beer Meet and Greet, 1 p.m. Feb. 5, Five Seasons Westside, 1000 Marietta St. N.W., Atlanta, 404-875-3232,