GA breweries and the laws that keep them down

Discussion in 'South-Atlantic' started by bctdi, Jul 25, 2012.

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  1. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    As I watch around the country, and see breweries sprouting up all over the place and see entire towns become "beer destinations", I feel like GA is missing the boat because of the laws in place that keep breweries from selling more than a 5.5 oz sample on premesis and self distributing. So does anyone know if there is any major legislative push to fix that?Where are we in terms of progress on that front if any? Places like Denver, Asheville, and Bend OR have this already figured out and are bringing in beer tourism / money to their state. I would love to see GA get to that point where we are attracting more startups. I know we have a few already, but not nearly enough.What can we do about it?
    TheDole and jriggins6 like this.
  2. bhalter8

    bhalter8 Devotee (400) Feb 22, 2008 Georgia

    I agree 100%, but it seems like all past attempts have failed. The fact that GA has no limits on campaign financing allows a couple of big, good ole boy distributers to pour big $$$ into making sure politicians maintain the status quo...

    I went to meetings for the reincarnation of Georgians for World Class Beer (the original group got the ABV increase in '04), but they seemed more focused on Sunday sales and it sorta fizzled...

    We also lost one of the only GA politicians to support beer laws in Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, who supposedly has decided not to seek another term.
    afksports and GatorBeerNerd like this.
  3. GatorBeerNerd

    GatorBeerNerd Disciple (340) Sep 15, 2007 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    In general, most of the beer drinkers locally seem to be happy once the Sunday Sales passed and growlers were determined to be legal. It seems to be more difficult to get people energized for making laws better for start up brewers. That is probably mainly due to it being more of an uphill battle than other issues mentioned. The distributors did not see how it would make them lose any money with those law changes (or interpretations) so they were ok with them.

    At this point, the only possible change I could see people getting behind is having on and off-premise licenses. You can argue we got pretty close to that with the new brewpub distribution limits (this one also meant more money for distributors so they didn't object). However, tastings at beer stores or a growler to go from a bar tap would be a nice change. Unless it also involved breweries selling direct, it should not draw any complaints from the distributors.

    ETA: I guess removing the ABV cap could also pass without a distributor challenge. Not sure if it is worth the fight though.
  4. coreyfmcdonald

    coreyfmcdonald Savant (953) Nov 13, 2008 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    I don't know much about GWCB, but I'd certainly get involved if there was an organized group pushing for some of these changes. On a day to day basis, the laws aren't terribly important. I mean it'd be nice to allow breweries to have brewpubs and allow brewpubs to sell beer to go, but the important part of this is the changes that would ensue because of these changes. It'd get rid of the necessary distinction between brewpubs and breweries and would allow for much more brewery freedom and creativity, making it much easier for new breweries to brew their own beer from the start and experiment with new recipes.

    I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I think what we need is someone who has knowledge in the laws to lead people to push for a change. I feel the ATL beer group is a bit disjointed.
  5. Dine

    Dine Initiate (0) Jun 28, 2012 Georgia

    i agree completely that the atl beer group is not organized. we should def work on that and if that ultimatly leads to a large enough group of people who want to see change then thats great!
  6. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    I did write to chip rodgers ( my legislator) but what I want to know is .... Is there an organization working on this such as free the hops organization? Or is that not their area? Not sure , but if there is an organization working on this, I would like to get behind it.
    Lantern likes this.
  7. Dine

    Dine Initiate (0) Jun 28, 2012 Georgia

    Why not create our own. Realistically we need someone that knows the law. But most importantly we need a base. I've been in this industry for 6 years now and have yet to see a "true" group. If it exists please accept my apology I just havnt met you yet (and would love to). But as an earlier person posted seems to me the ga hop lovers are disorganized. Whether its for tastings or to change the law. So if this group exists please introduce yourself and if not then by all means, let's get this started. I'd love to set up regular tastings and from there..if there's interest, we can work towards changing some very backwards laws
  8. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I just want to be able to buy a damn beer at a brewery, like I can in North Carolina when I'm at the summer house.

    I also want to be able to go into a bottle/growler shop and be able to have a taste before I buy, I'd even be willing to have to PAY for it, if that had to be part of the law.

    That, and get over the ABV law. It's ridiculous. I can't understand the whole reasoning to begin with it in the first place. I'd think the MORE beer we could get here, more sales, more taxes and ultimately more money for the clowns to spend on crap in this state.
    Lantern likes this.
  9. Mavajo

    Mavajo Zealot (572) Feb 10, 2007 Georgia

    I think a well-organized person or group of persons with time and dedication could make a compelling arugment about the financial and political benefits to liberalizing the state's beer laws.

    Look at North Carolina -- Asheville in particular. They've got no less than three major breweries from the west coast that are opening up multi-million dollar facilities as part of their east coast presence. Asheville got that business because they've got a thriving craft beer scene, largely due to their liberal beer laws -- self-distribution, on premises sales, etc.

    Georgia's antiquated beer laws are literally costing the state money and job opportunities.
    MrHolland10 likes this.
  10. bhalter8

    bhalter8 Devotee (400) Feb 22, 2008 Georgia

    Lots of good points here, and in some cases, they have been mentioned before. I think the issue is having someone with the free time to drive this movement. I'd be happy to be involved, but it is a serious time commitment to lead this thing. I'll also echo the sentiments of some saying we need someone who knows the law. Not sure we have our Legal Beer Advocate yet...

    I think people need to recognize exactly how much work and time the guys in Free The Hops put into accomplishing their goals. Right now we have a lot of people (myself included) that want the laws changed, but don't have the time or legal background to truly lead the charge.

    My background would lend itself to building the business case for self distribution & tap rooms. I think Tampa (including surrounding cities) is a good example of how more open beer laws can truly impact small business growth (but not without a lot of hoop jumping). I am in Tampa often, and remember when I visited CCB in 2009, just Joey & Wayne in the roll-up garage at the end of an industrial park. Now they occupy the entire park and run hourly tours on weekdays! It's not just them now, though, as many new small breweries are opening up all around Tampa creating unique beers, and able to do so due to a more open beer laws.

    All this said, people who know more than I continue to say that the single biggest hurdle will be all the money behind not changing these laws...
  11. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    Who was the group that helped get the GA abv limit raised to 14%? Are they still around? I agree with the earlier posts that money and knowledge of the law will be what it takes. We need help from local brewpub/ brewery owners.... They may be able to form some kind of organization that can make some headway. I would think that changing the law would be in their best interest, and maybe they could throw some money behind it too. Not that it all should fall on their shoulders, but they would certainly be able to help get the ball rolling with a little collaberation.
  12. StuartCarter

    StuartCarter Initiate (0) Apr 25, 2006 Alabama

    take it from someone very involved in the Alabama group - Free the Hops - the time commitment is substantial, the amount of people needed for this change is substantial, the amount of money involved in bringing around this change is substantial, and the likelihood is that it will take several years to achieve this kind of change.
    Lantern and bhalter8 like this.
  13. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    I absolutely believe you. I still think it's worth persuing if we can get some backup.
  14. thebeergrowler

    thebeergrowler Initiate (0) Sep 23, 2010 Georgia

    Agree that Georgia is losing jobs to NC and other brewer friendly states right now because of the silly laws. Sierra, New Belgium etc never would consider opening a brewery in Georgia because they cannot have a bar and restaurant on the premises of the brewery. Georgia could become a brewery incubator if the laws were a little more pro-brewer. It can also bring in a ton of tourism.
    I don't have much free time right now, but I will help in any way I can. I know a little about the alcohol laws in Georgia and how to work on changing them.
  15. Dine

    Dine Initiate (0) Jun 28, 2012 Georgia

    well i propose this:

    talking about it on the fourm is one thing but i think we need to get together. for those of you interested in having a tasting and discussing what we would like to see change as well as how to go about it please BM me. from there i will try and coordinate a good time for everyone. i will also work on getting some local liscensed brewers to come. i know several personally and im sure they have ideas as well. if i can get enough interest in this i will gladly hold the meeting at my house.
  16. pghlee

    pghlee Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2006 Georgia

    We have a decent amount of money in the bank from

    Saving it for this cause
    ATLbeerDog likes this.
  17. pghlee

    pghlee Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2006 Georgia

    Eton from twains, Bob from Wrecking bar and Crawford at five seasons also have been working on this and may have some good names to start with
  18. dogwood

    dogwood Initiate (0) Nov 5, 2005 Georgia

    It is really a matter of money. The effort would need money. One big challenge is that the packaging breweries, (Sweetwater, Terrapin, Red Brick) can't actively participate in the effort because their distributors would not be very happy. I think a consumer based effort rather than a solely business association could be more effective. Obviously the breweries themselves could then assist that organization. I think the resources are there, but it would take a HUGE effort and a pile of cash.
  19. Dine

    Dine Initiate (0) Jun 28, 2012 Georgia

    ive had a few people contact me already but could def use more! like i said before if there is a group with these ideas already under id love to hear about/from them. we need to move as a unit, lots of small groups certainly doesnt get much done!
  20. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    Well that's a slap in the face! It's like asking the breweries to cut off their left arm so they can grow a new leg. Rough.
  21. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    Lee , The war chest is guys at the Brick store have all kinds of street cred because of the awesome job you do every day.... Not just saying that either... I've been to quite a few beer bars outside of GA , and Brick Store still blows em away!All the sucking up aside.... This is the exact type of ammo necessary to put a major smack down on the legislative peeps so that we can have the say that so many Georgians really want!
  22. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I think a good starting point would be to piggy back off what has been changed. The growler laws, and the raising to 14%.

    Why was it stopped at 14%?

    I've noticed alot of local jurisdictions having votes on allowing growler fills in places. I think they see the growth in the market, as alot of growler shops are expanding out, after only being able to do so for a little over a year now. In this economy, the fact that a niche market like that is expanding so quickly, has to have local governments and business sitting back enjoying the growth of commerce, but also tax flow inwards.

    Pointing out how a small town like Asheville, has attracted massive beer business, is a great way to show what we're being left out of. As a massive blip on the radar, the Atlanta area mostly, could be a driving force in southern expansion of craft beer. Atlanta and Georgia as a whole has embraced the movie industry in the last few years, and has a seen a massive boom in movie production in the state. I think they'd be interested in a longer term business, IMO.
  23. Mavajo

    Mavajo Zealot (572) Feb 10, 2007 Georgia

    So what are the things we actually want?
    • ABV cap raised/removed
    • Bottle & Growler sales from brewpubs/breweries
    • Limited self-distribution (up to a certain limit)
    I think good angles would be to:
    • Show the massive expansion in craft beer, even though the beer market at large has stagnated/regressed.
    • Show the economic boon that beer-friendly places like Asheville are experiencing
    • Highlight liberal beer laws in other Southern states. For whatever reason, lawmakers tend to view the antiquated southern laws as "virtuous" and needing of protection. If we can show the liberal beer laws in other Southern states, and that it hasn't compromised their good ol' Southern-ness, then I think that would help alleviate lawmaker's fears that Southern princples are being compromised. May also be useful to highlight all of the monastic breweries in Belgium, etc., to combat the natural fundamentalist puritanical push-back to any liberalization of "sin" laws.
    • Play up the tourism angle. Atlanta is the major hub of the southeast, and people are willing to travel for beer events -- brewery-only releases, festivals, beers they just can't get at home, etc. For example, thousands of people show up for Foothill's Sexual Chocolate release and Cigar City's Hunahpu release -- people fly and drive in from all over the country. If Atlanta starts to nurture its burgeoning beer culture instead of suppressing it, it'll just make Atlanta into a destination for beer lovers. After all, people from all around the southeast tend to visit Atlanta anyway -- whether it's a layover at Hartsfield before catching a connecting flight, coming into town for a Braves' game, business event, etc. This'll just give them another reason to venture into the city/surrounding suburbs and spend money.
    afksports likes this.
  24. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    GA wineries can sell wine on premesis right now.... Why not beer? Would be another angle to take
  25. coreyfmcdonald

    coreyfmcdonald Savant (953) Nov 13, 2008 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    I think this is a good start for a list and has some well thought out ideas. I would add to this on-site sales for breweries. I think one thing that would really help expand the local brewery scene is making the distinction of a brewpub and brewery unnecessary from a law standpoint. I'm not sure the extent of laws that are holding breweries back from this. I would assume there are at least a few.
  26. Mavajo

    Mavajo Zealot (572) Feb 10, 2007 Georgia

    Also, if someone could get the numbers on A) how many jobs and B) how much money the recent Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, etc. expansions are pumping into Asheville, I think that'd be very persuasive data.
  27. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    I was just looking into some of the laws surrounding wine in GA and for wine it's pretty liberal. You can sell wine to drink at the winery, you can sell bottled wine to drink, or to go at the winery. You can serve food at the winery, and you can have 12 cases of wine shipped to you from out of state. The GA wine industry is booming. It's bringing in hundreds of millions to GA per year. It seems like we should be able to make the case for beer by using wine as the proven model. I came across this site done by an economic think tank that outlines a lot of the pros / cons / general concerns about changing distribution laws. I just stumbled onto it , but there is some good info there
  28. Hoptrollop

    Hoptrollop Initiate (0) Feb 8, 2008 Georgia

    Georgians for World Class Beer is the group that raised the ABV and most currently had an attempt at reforming in 2011. There was one meeting with quite a good attendance but after that John and I did not get another organized. I could give excuses but really that is just life.

    We did accomplish getting accounts for Gmail, Twitter @GWCBeer and Facebook the group - Georgians for World Class Beer and had cards made. A specific group for Sunday Sales did the leg work on that but I was there for the last bit of it. GWCB was interviewed for a local news report the day of the rally.

    GWCB also made contact with the GA Brewer's Guild which is small but has been working on changing the laws. We don't want to be on the other side of the rope in a tug-a-war. We both want what's best for our beer community. That being said we decided that being a separate group instead of a faction of the guild would be best. There are directions we can go in to achieve our goals as consumers that are different then a professional trying to run a business can.

    In all honesty all those "WEs" is really just me, Jennifer O'Connell/Hoptrollop with help from my husband John. So things quickly grew stagnate and nothing else has been accomplished. Sad but true.

    GWCB can move forward with some fresh vim & vigor and a lot of help. An August get together would be great and if at all possible an event during Atlanta Beer Week could be organized.
  29. Hoptrollop

    Hoptrollop Initiate (0) Feb 8, 2008 Georgia

    It's nice to know after so many months not posting on here I still have the power to kill a thread.

    Is it because I'm a girl?
  30. bctdi

    bctdi Initiate (144) Dec 8, 2008 Georgia

    yes......that's the reason. Actually I would say that the prospect of donating money and time to this may be a little difficult for most (myself included), but at the same time I will do what I can....and if that means I have to go over to the brick store for a meet up to talk about this, then by god I am willing to make that sacrifice! Dine suggested meeting up a few posts above for a tasting and discussion on this issue. Not sure what will come of it, but I know exactly what will happen if we do nothing.
  31. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Maybe a meeting in order, to toss some ideas, and whatnot?

    Obviously the channels are there to get it to the right people to promote a change, but maybe getting a cohesive list of ideas, or objectives that are easy to tackle.

    The whole issue with wine allowing to run free, yet beer is limited is pretty silly.

    I also know that there has been a minor boom in distilling in the state and they were really limited in what they could do. No tasting, and such.. If I recall, they are going to be allowed to do tastings, to help with selling their spirits. If it's possible for them, why does beer need to be left to antiquated laws?
  32. Mavajo

    Mavajo Zealot (572) Feb 10, 2007 Georgia

    According to a chart posted in the General section, Georgia apparently has the 3rd highest beer taxes too. That one's got me a bit perplexed, though, since it's been my observation that we have some of the best beer prices in the nation.
  33. GatorBeerNerd

    GatorBeerNerd Disciple (340) Sep 15, 2007 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    I have always wondered if that is somehow just on kegs and not bottles. I know that sounds crazy, but the bar and growler pricing here sucks while the bottle prices are almost always cheaper than anywhere else. I do not know how else it could be true.
    Mavajo likes this.
  34. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,228) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I think it's actually just straight across the board, no matter the vehicle that it's delivered to the public in.

    I just think the whole growler stuff here is still a hot ticket item, the new businesses getting into it are tossing their ham fists into the pile while the gettin' is good!
  35. GatorBeerNerd

    GatorBeerNerd Disciple (340) Sep 15, 2007 Georgia
    Beer Trader

    Even if you ignore the growler pricing, our bar pricing is absolutely insane. Most areas of the country you can get craft pints (at least locals) for what we have to pay for PBR or Bud here. I do not think I have been in a bar in NC without some sort of $4 local craft pint option. Even our brewpubs do not seem to have prices that low.

    To avoid lumping everyone together, I have to point out the the Brick Store's pricing seems so much more reasonable than other places here.
    bhalter8 likes this.
  36. kp

    kp Initiate (0) Jun 5, 2002 Georgia

    No wonder they are busy every day of the week.

    There have been times that I've been at bsp and wondering if they realize what a good deal they have on one beer or another. Then I look around and see them three deep at the bar on a Monday night while other places with premium pricing will have three people at the bar on a Saturday night.
  37. Hoptrollop

    Hoptrollop Initiate (0) Feb 8, 2008 Georgia

    Stephanie Stuckey Benfield tried replacing the word wine with the word beer for years and said it was never that simple. If you look at the GA law books beer, wine and distilled alcohol all have separate sections "and near the twain shall meet." (Unless of course it helps the teetotalers ie homebrewing=distilling moonshine grumblegrumble) GA also has the bad habit of interrupting law in a "if it's not written to be legal than it must be illegal." Add in the fact that anything new needs to be taxed and determining how and who will be taking care of that brings everything to a stop. The DoR wants the money but who ever wants to add to their workload? Was it SweetWater that got a big tax bill on the beer drunk on the tours or special events?

    The more you know the more frustrating it all is. This is one reason I thing GWCB getting behind 1 idea to work on at a time may be the best practice.
  38. pghlee

    pghlee Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2006 Georgia

    I came from a place with 500 bottles,high prices and slow turnover. I purposely price my bottles below the traditional bar markup and keep close to ten bottles under 4 dollars for regulars,students etc. I stock a lot of bottles and things bill out frequently so the menus can be hard to keep up with at times. Personally when i go out drinking at beer bars i drink draft but bars with less impressive draft lists i usually look hard at the bottle list.
    Bluecane likes this.
  39. pghlee

    pghlee Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2006 Georgia

    I had a very good conversation about this topic the other day. We should get together see how we want to re write the law, hire a lawyer to re write it (that few thousand dollars i referred too), then start a grass roots effort thru social media to get people behind it. I thought that was pretty good advice for trying to do this without throwing a bunch of money and personal time at it.
    ATLbeerDog and bhalter8 like this.
  40. jmhart

    jmhart Initiate (0) Feb 20, 2010 Georgia

    Do you think a comprehensive rewrite is the right way to go? It seems like, in this state especially, it's easier to pick one thing and fight for it (i.e. ABV limits, container limits in Alabama, etc..).

    I can make phone calls and write letters with the best of them, so just tell me when and where and I'll be there to help.
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