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: The world beyond Sunday sales

It took five years and a new governor, but on April 12 the General Assembly gave final approval to legislation that should lead to Sunday alcohol sales in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal has said he will sign the bill. After that, it will be up to city councils and county commissions to put the question to the voters, and referendums could be on ballots as early as the November elections.

Beer lovers were elated when the bill finally passed. Many, including members of Georgians for World-Class Beer, had lobbied long and hard and attended rallies at the Capitol when it seemed the legislation was all but dead.

Somehow, though, I never quite caught their enthusiasm. I’m happy that, like 47 other states, we’ll have the choice to buy beer (or wine or spirits) on Sunday. But I don’t see it adding much to our beer culture. And I still think the July 2004 GWCB-sponsored law that allowed beer over 6 percent alcohol by volume was the moment that changed everything.

Lazy Magnolia 800x600

Credit: Lazy Magnolia

When I helped launch Southern Brew News in April 2005, sales of stronger, more flavorful beers were already booming. And I wrote the first issue’s “Notes from the Editor” as both an introduction and a kind of giddy apologetic. Mostly, it was aimed at people in places such as Colorado and Oregon who could scarcely believe the South supported any kind of craft brewing.

I boldly quoted “The Americanization of Dixie: The Southernization of America” by the venerable John Egerton in the hope that our diverse and distinctive food culture would inspire Southern brewers to break free from what Egerton called the “homogenized puree” of contemporary America and create a great beer culture.

Six years later, I’d say that hope is a dream come true. Almost daily, I’m reminded how far brewing in Georgia, and the South in general, has come.

Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing keeps getting bigger and better and now ranks as the 27th-largest craft brewery in America. And other breweries, big and small, are making beer that could only be called culinary.

One recent Sunday afternoon at the Classic City Brew Fest in Athens, I savored the nutty elegance of Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale. Brewed by Leslie Henderson at Lazy Magnolia in Kiln Miss., it’s a World Beer Cup winner and probably the first beer in the world made with whole roasted pecans.


Credit: Moon River

And there was Rosemary Swamp Fox IPA, an aromatic delight from Savannah’s Moon River brewmaster, John Pinkerton. It won a gold medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, displaying a delicious mix of hoppy and herbal flavors.

I hope to feature both Henderson’s and Pinkerton’s ales at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival — a culinary weekend, May 19 – 22, that will bring together an impressive array of chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, and craft brewers to celebrate the food and drink of the South.

I’ll be presenting “Southern Craft Brewers Spill It,” a couple of tasting and talking panels with Pinkerton and more award-winning Southern brewers. It will be a great occasion to reflect on how much fun we’ve been having, with some time to think about the future.

Beyond Sunday sales (and growlers at beverage stores), there’s a whole wide world of food and drink out there, folks.

Southern brewers are tapping into it, showing how beer has almost limitless possibilities, whether it’s paired with pecan pie or shrimp and grits or simply sipped on the front porch on a hot Sunday afternoon in Georgia.

Event preview

“Southern Craft Brewers Spill It” — 10:45 – 11:30 a.m. Friday, May 20 and 3:30 – 4:15 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival,

By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog

15 comments Add your comment

Hindu Elvis Pimp

April 26th, 2011
9:57 am

Agreed, Sunday sales is a blip on what the beer culture in Georgia has experienced the last 5 – 6 years. It is however a victory for those of us who were constrained by over bearing religious ideals. It also took one more icon of southern stupidity off of our profile.


April 26th, 2011
3:36 pm

I disagree that Sunday sales of beer and wine is not a major advance, even though it may not mark quite the sea change that the 2004 amendment brought about. My motivation for supporting Sunday sales of at least beer and wine has long been that Sunday is the day when my wife and I customarily do our shopping, and the incovenience of having to buy beer and wine on another day is significant to us. Moreover, we often don’t decide what we’re going to have for dinner until we see something in the market on Sunday that looks fresh and good, and it’s at that moment that we’d like to be able to decide what beer or wine would pair with it. People in other states take this convenience for granted. Having lived in such a state, California, I was shocked when I moved to GA and realized what a hassle it is to often have to do our wine and beer shopping separately from our other food and beverage shopping. I welcome GA allowing its residents to enjoy the same convenience that residents of 47 other states take for granted.

Sideshow Bill

April 26th, 2011
5:48 pm

I’m just happy that I don’t have to follow the lead of ignorant TheoCons, allowing them to decide what I can buy and when. (And I homebrew, so I’m sitting on more than enough great beer, although I’m known to drop a couple of hundred at Green’s, Mac’s and soon Ale Yeah)

I’m still waiting for the Tea Party to do something about GA’s miserable unemployment situation.


April 26th, 2011
6:17 pm

If I venture into the city for beer it will usually be on the weekends. I prefer to visit the pubs on Sundays as they are typically quieter and less hectic than on a Saturday. It will be nice to be able to hit up the in-town beer stores as well.

I can see both the pubs and stores benefiting from this as I will come into town more often now that I’ll be able to combine trips that would have not justified leaving the suburbs for just one or the other.


April 26th, 2011
10:23 pm

Well, Bill, you’ll have to wait a long time for the Tea Party to do something about jobs. Their policies will kill jobs, not create them.

Al Kaholic

April 26th, 2011
11:29 pm

A happy day for drunkards! DUI would be a good thing — if only it killed the inebriated fool behind the wheel. And, this beer connoisseur nonsense is a stupid as golf. People guzzle booze for one reason — and it isn’t the taste. It is because alcohol dulls their stupid senses and allows them to forget, momentarily, how sad & pathetic their lives are. Of course, all drunkards will disagree, but they are in an alcoholic delusion which manifests itself in rationalization of their powerful addiction.

SSI Resident

April 26th, 2011
11:30 pm

If you could see the looks on tourists’ faces when they are shopping Harris-Teeter or Winn-Dixie on St. Simons Island and are told that they can’t buy beer or wine on Sunday, then you would know why this a VERY long overdue bill passage. So antiquated. Most people here attend church, but they all love a cold beer or glass of wine at Jazz in the Park or sitting by the surf.

Perfect Pairing

April 27th, 2011
12:53 am

We have Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) to thank for raising the bar on beer quality back in 2004. She was courageous in her pursuit in bringing the craft forward for local brewers.


April 27th, 2011
1:29 am

You can’t buy alcohol at a store on sunday, but you can buy it at a bar.

Great logic, there, way to go georgia


April 27th, 2011
6:44 am

Um, Al, usually when people making such sweeping opinions about an entire group of people, they are far from the truth. Such is the case in your short diatribe. Most people who drink alcohol are not “drunkards”. Most people who drink beer do not drink enough to get drunk every time they drink. Often, I drink one beer with dinner (the equivalent of one glass of wine). In fact, I rarely drink enough beer in one sitting to feel drunk. And, just like wine and cheese, beer has literally thousands of differents tastes to enjoy. I’m looking quite forward to that Savannah IPA. Yummy.

Beer Conniseur

April 27th, 2011
8:37 am

Now that we have Sunday sales and growlers, we need to go for the coup de grace and work to change the alcohol distribution laws that have killed good breweries (Dogwood, R.I.P.), and keeps new breweries from opening in Georgia. Considering the beer culture that has flourished here, we should have more than the handful of craft breweries that we do.


April 27th, 2011
9:58 am

Um, Al, are you smart enough to realize with this new law the drunkards will now be able to buy their booze at a store and take it home to drink while they are off the roads? The old law forced them to only drink at a bar and then get back on the roads to go home while endangering others.

Hindu Elvis Pimp

April 29th, 2011
4:16 pm

Don’t interact with Al. This is a person who only wants to stir the pot.

Marshall Stacks

April 30th, 2011
7:47 am

Plans change; gatherings and parties can be spontaneous. Suddenly your quiet Sunday with a growler becomes a yard work assignment and you don’t feel like a 9% hop bomb afterwards. Or your BMC friends show up and you don’t want them drinking all of your Southern Tier, hence a trip to the shop to keep everyone happy. I’m really looking forward to the Sunday ban being a thing of the past…

And don’t feed the trolls.


May 1st, 2011
10:44 am

I found the Magnolia Southern Pecan down here in New Orleans. It is really, really good. Thank you for talking about it, other wise I wouldn’t have known.