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Georgia House proposes retail sales for brewpubs

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Imagine for a moment that you are a local craft beer lover.

And it just so happens that your favorite brew is 5 Seasons Brewery’s Hopgasm IPA. Whenever you stretch out on your couch at the end of a long day, all you want to help you relax is a mouthful of your favorite, local, hoppy brew. You saunter to the fridge, smacking your lips, swing open the door and…realize that under current Georgia law, you aren’t allowed to keep any Hopgasm at your home. Because they aren’t allowed to let you leave their building with it. If you want a pint, you have to drive to the brewpub and consume it on premises.

Well, last week Georgia House Representatives Tom Taylor and Ron Stephens introduced HB 314 which may change that bummer of a situation.

For those that aren’t familiar with the term, since the end of Prohibition the majority of U.S. states – including Georgia – elected to enact a three-tier system of alcohol distribution. It separates producers, distributors, and retailers from one another, enacting a trickle down system where the alcohol flows from the brewer/distiller/winemaker down to the distributor, then to the retail shops, and finally into our mouths. This, theoretically, would help regulate the reinstated right to imbibe and prevent our headfirst dive back into the booze-fueled bedlam that led to its ban in the first place.

What HB 314 proposes is to “change the definition of ‘brewpub’; to provide for limited retail sales by brewers of malt beverages manufactured on their premises for off-premises consumption..”

What does that mean for you? This means that local brewpubs like 5 Seasons, Twain’s, and Wrecking Bar would be able to pour you a pint to enjoy at the bar while they pack up your daily take-home limit of 288 oz. (or 24x 12oz bottles…or 4x 64oz growlers and a 32oz growlette).

Because the 21st Amendment left the power to regulate alcohol sales to the states, combined with the freight train of craft brewing and local brewpubs, many states are tweaking the rules of the rigid three-tier system. This gives producers the flexibility to cut out the other two middle men and sell direct to you, the beer lover.

While many craft advocates cheer the news that they may soon be able to grab a growler from the brewpub to go, there are dark forces moving against us. Tier’s two and three aren’t too keen on being left out of the party, and are very motivated to see HB 314 and its companion bill SB 174 in the state senate brushed under the rug. Alcohol distribution is big business. The 2 big brewers – SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev – spend lots of money lobbying congress every year to stop the rising tide of craft breweries, or anything that might help smaller breweries gain a better foothold in the market. And HB 314/SB 174 here on the state level is no different.

So, attention beer-nuts! This is your call to arms!

If you believe that local brewpubs should be able to sell their product to the public for consumption off-site, contact your district representative in the Georgia House or State Senate and let your voice be heard!

Fight the power!

- Jon Watson, Food & More Blog

17 comments Add your comment

[...] Georgia House proposes retail sales for brewpubs [...]

btownsend

February 22nd, 2013
8:53 am

Thanks for posting this (along with my lo-fi i-Phone photo). From what I’ve heard, the fix was in, and the little guys lost before it was even a fight. But I think this is a good opportunity for some education about small brewers, the distribution system, and the bizzaro world of the growler sales in GA.

GA Whiskey

February 22nd, 2013
9:49 am

There is also similar legislation being introduced that would allow distilleries to do on premise sales. These types of changes could make a huge difference for consumers who appreciate local craft products.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20132014/HB/185

jdicigar

February 22nd, 2013
12:21 pm

i hope this would apply to breweries as well. It would be nice to pickup a growler on a Sweetwater tour

John Sukroo

February 22nd, 2013
2:25 pm

Supposedly it has been bottled up in committee as it contains “complicated issues”. Really. What is complicated about the republican controlled legislature living up to their alleged free market principles.

It's not complicated

February 22nd, 2013
2:35 pm

It’s not…….That’s Maxwell’s way of saying his decision was based upon campaign contributions and strong arm lobbying by large corporations that fear the small mouse in the room. Further, by saying it’s complicated, he feels he is not obligated to detail why.

This is not as much about making money as it is maintaining control. As a consumer, this affects me equally as the small brewer/brew pub. As a consumer, my choices are limited. Because of this, I will boycott all InBev AB and SAB Miller/Coors products…..

Balisraul,,,,,

February 23rd, 2013
7:31 am

Have any other states passed a law that allow off-site consumpion?

David Larkworthy

February 23rd, 2013
9:26 am

David from 5 Seasons here.
I believe 40 of our 50 states (as well as the capitol in D.C.) allow people the choice to buy directly from the breweries. Here is Georgia, wineries from out of state and here have been allowed to sell directly to consumers for years. There are so many facts and reasons why we should already have this in place for the benefit of our community. The evidence is overwhelming.
There simply isn’t a good, ethical argument for why this shouldn’t happen. If anyone, anywhere would like to try and make one, please do.
Thanks again for writing about HB 314 and the corresponding Senate Bill of 174. This is a bill about consumer choice, relieving an industry of unfair discrimination and allowing Georgia to catch up and compete with other states and countries who have already adopted similar policies. They are enjoying the benefits of making the right choice and we should too. Please contact your representatives by phone, social media, email and mail as soon as possible so we don’t have to wait any longer to make this happen. Cheers!

Crawford

February 23rd, 2013
4:55 pm

It is really important for people to take a quick second and call or email their state representative and those reps on the Regulated Industries committee. Thanks to the AJC for covering the story. It is insane that our state holds back our own job producing small businesses at the behest of paid lobbyists and two large foreign owned breweries. Those foreign owned breweries enjoy these rights in their home base of Europe and then come lobby against small, American, local businesses. It’s a shame.

N-GA

February 24th, 2013
2:45 pm

The 3-tier system has a problem not mentioned in this article. Each “distributor” is given a monopoly on specific brands. What that means is that a retail store must buy Jack Daniel’s from the sole distributor. The same holds true for Crown Royal, Macallan’s, etc. The result? Without direct competition, the wholesalers do not have to compete against another wholesaler offering the same brand so they are able to dictate price to the retailer. Just another instance of legislators taking money from distributors so they will enact laws that hurt voters. BTW, the original state wholesale licenses were initially given to politically-connected families at the end of prohibition. Since then, there has been some consolidation.

Dan

February 25th, 2013
7:36 am

What’s the update on this legislature? It seems to be stuck in committee. I can’t see anything that says the house or senate legislature is being scheduled for a vote.

Art

February 25th, 2013
9:56 am

I was in a brewpub in NC this past weekend where you could purchase a growler and take home your favorite in-house brewed beer. GA is such a backwards state.

The Dogfather

February 25th, 2013
10:02 am

Great information. N-ga -spot on my friend- no more than a Monopoly by state and distibutors. Follow the money. See who the lobbyist that pay the most to “our” elected official.What a joke. I urge everyone to follow “it.s not compilcated” advice Boycott the big boys -you know who they are. Spend an extra buck or two and support better product

The Dogfather

February 25th, 2013
10:05 am

Art better be glad you were not stopped by ga. authorities -they could have arrested you for interstate transport of alcohol. No different than a moonshiner….

Art

February 25th, 2013
10:12 am

@The Dogfather, the only beer I purchased was consumed on premises and most of its remnants were left there as well…

Get It Right

February 25th, 2013
11:26 am

You can get growlers in South Carolina, too. It’s a good thing I pass several brewpubs between Augusta and Columbia when we go visit the family. Georgia needs to get with it.

David Larkworthy

February 26th, 2013
12:27 pm

Please go now to change.org at the link below and sign our petition to change the laws which prevent Georgians from buying Georgia beer from Georgia breweries!

http://www.change.org/petitions/georgia-state-government-pass-hb-314-senate-bill-174-so-georgians-can-buy-fresh-beer-from-georgia

Thank you