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As Georgia law currently stands, beer enthusiasts visiting breweries are not allowed to purchase beer directly from the brewery. The beer must first travel to a distributor, then to a retailer for purchase by a customer. This designed inefficiency dates back to the repeal of Prohibition, but the market and demands of beer drinkers have changed dramatically since the 1930s.
The Georgia Craft Brewers’ Guild wants to update state law to allow breweries to sell directly to consumers. To meet this goal, they helped write House Bill 314 and Senate Bill 174, which would allow packaging breweries (think Terrapin) and brewpubs to sell customers a maximum of a case per customer per day to take home. This makes sense—beer is best when it is fresh, and there is no place where it's fresher than the place it was made.
In 2013, the General Assembly convened a committee to study proposed to changes to state law and heard testimonies from craft brewers to decide appropriate changes to make. Last month the Georgia Senate Study Committee on Brewpubs and Alcoholic Beverage Tastings—which includes local Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville)—released its report regarding recommended changes. Their proposals are terrible.
The full report can be found here. Give it a read, mainly because such great phrases as “The tradition of beer dates back over 10,000 years; man has been consuming it since empires and great cities of Mesopotamia ruled the known world,” are now part of public record.
The BPAT committee recommends the following changes to state law: A customer can buy a growler of up to 64 ounces from a brewpub so long as the customer bought food from the brewpub, drank part of the growler at the brewpub, then had the growler sealed by the brewpub. If someone wants to drive with their growler, they must place it in a locked glovebox, their trunk or behind their seat.
Instead of allowing the simple sale of bottled or canned beer to customers, Georgia lawmakers recommend that beer enthusiasts be forced to drink beer before driving. This creates a Catch-22 for beer fans: To buy fresh beer, customers who drive to brewpubs must drink before returning home.
The recommended changes also completely ignore packaging breweries. Since Terrapin doesn’t sell food, people in Athens would not be able to buy directly from their brewery. Instead, because of the three-tier system, their beer has to travel to a warehouse outside of Athens before coming back to Athens for people in Athens to drink it.
The Georgia Craft Brewers’ Guild correctly argues that a partially consumed growler begins to decline in quality almost immediately, even if resealed. A half-filled container of beer would be flat and oxidized by the time the customer returned home. As the GCBG writes, “the current recommendation is unworkable, as written, and does not serve the interests of Georgia’s craft beer industry or the interests of Georgia’s adult consumers.”
I am inclined to agree. Needlessly complex regulations would put harmful constraints on Georgia’s craft breweries, put consumers at risk of drunk driving and damage the quality of the beer that the consumer purchased.
Never mind the fact that 42 other states allow some form of beer-to-go, nor the fact that these breweries are local businesses that draw customers and provide economic benefits for their communities. The Republican majority underneath the Gold Dome talks a lot about economic freedom and loosening regulations, but when it comes to buying a beer from a brewery, our legislators would prefer that customers put themselves in danger by requiring that they drink beer before taking it home.