Small business brewers in Georgia are one step closer to winning a long and hard-fought battle over how they can sell their product.
On Feb. 2, the Georgia Senate approved Senate Bill 85, which would allow the state’s craft brewers to sell beer directly to customers. Currently, wholesalers act as middlemen between the brewers and retailers. Under SB 85, consumers would be able to buy fresh beer by the glass to drink at the brewery or brewpub, purchase up to one case per day to take home, and buy food onsite. It would end the tiered tour system enacted in 2015, in which brewers can only give away beer as a souvenir to customers who purchased tickets for brewery tours.
The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Rick Jeffares, chair of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, came about after many months of discussions between craft brewers and wholesalers. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Speaker of the House David Ralston, House Regulated Industries Committee Chairman Howard Maxwell, and Sen. Jeffares all provided guidance on the legislation as well.
According to 2015 data from the Brewers Association, Georgia ranks 48th in breweries per capita, 17th in economic impact, and 16th in craft beer production. If SB 85 becomes law, it will no doubt boost economic development in the state and encourage growth in the small business craft brewing industry.
SB 85 now goes to the House and could go into effect Sept. 1 if it passes there as well.