What changes to Georgia’s beer laws might mean to Alpharetta

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Imagine for a minute that you and I went into business together. We had perfected a recipe for lemonade. So good was our product that we were convinced we could make millions.

We’d build a modest lemonade factory in Alpharetta and judiciously source our ingredients. We cooked up batches and sold them by the bottle to restaurants and shops. Hard work was put into distribution plans and marketing. Pretty soon business was taking off! And before long our loyal customers wanted to see the terrific operation we’d put together.

Jekyll TastingSo we started offering tours of our lemonade factory. At the end of the tour we would sell customers cases of our fabulous drink to bring home.

You know where this is going. The story is all well and good until you substitute beer for lemonade. It’s still a beverage and still crafted in small batches right here in Alpharetta. The only difference is that you can’t sell a single bottle of beer at your point of manufacture thanks to Georgia’s stupid, prohibition-era beer distribution laws.

Places like Jekyll Brewing get around the rule by offering small samples for free with the purchase a tour or perhaps a glass mug. But they can’t sell you the very product the make. And they can’t sell you a pint of the beer to drink on the premises either.

That is the crux of the problem Georgia’s craft beer industry is trying to tackle. Last year a bill was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly to make a modest change. It didn’t go far, stymied by a powerful beer distributor lobby in Atlanta.

This year the craft beer industry has regrouped and redoubled their effort. More money is being thrown into a PR, lobbying and social media effort. Branded as a way to increase jobs in Georgia, the proposed change would allow the sale of beer by the package at breweries and brew pubs. And you’d also be able to buy pints at the brewery as well.

How would this change the beer landscape in Alpharetta? Realistically it wouldn’t add a ton of jobs but certainly a few. Brewpubs like Hop Alley and 5 Seasons North could pour you a growler to take home. Perhaps they would need to make a little more beer or hire an additional person to fill those portly glass bottles.

Jekyll Brewing could do a lot with this. These guys have done amazing work in a short amount of time, expanding their product state-wide. They could get real creative if given the option to sell product in their shop.

And while breweries probably won’t see huge volumes of sales in their shops, they would however be selling at retail price. The margins of this business are through the roof compared to the puny prices they receive from distributors. It may be the financial shot in the arm that many breweries need to take things to the next level. Next comes new capital investment or new breweries entering the market. That indeed creates jobs, and better beer too.

So if my fictional lemonade factory can sell product, why not Jekyll Brewing? If anything these changes just make things fair. It’s hard to find fault with that.

For more information on the attempt to modernize Georgia’s beer laws, visit gabeerjobs.com and sign their petition.

2 Responses to “What changes to Georgia’s beer laws might mean to Alpharetta”

  1. Raj January 9, 2015 at 10:34 am #

    I was in Charleston a couple of days ago, and visited a Total wine there to see what local beer I could buy there, that I couldn’t at home. One of the things that the Total Wine in Charleston had was growler fills, right there in the store. There are several beers that come as draft only, and I think it is much safer for people to get a growler filled, and enjoy such a limited release at home than it is to make them have to visit a bar, and then drive home after having consumed it on premises.

  2. Billy January 14, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    The other thing that is crazy about our beer laws is that the breweries MUST go through their distributor to sell the beer to local restaurants and stores. If there was a bar right beside Jekyll, for instance, they couldn’t just take a keg over to the bar next door and sell it to them. They have to sell it to the distributor first and then the distributor sells it to the bar which means higher beer costs for the bar and consumer and less money for the brewery.

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