Beer is Big Business in Georgia

Jon Richards

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

The Council for Quality Growth recently did a profile of craft brewers in Georgia, pointing out not only the impact of the beer industry in the Peach State, but how craft breweries and brewpubs like Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing could become a factor in economic development, and make Georgia communities more attractive to beer lovers.

Metro Atlanta Region communities are beginning to recognize the grass roots, community-based appeal breweries have and the passage of the legislation solidifies the attraction. Breweries have proven to have economic development advantages as well. According to studies, beer supports nearly 65,000 jobs in Georgia, placing it in the top states for beer industry jobs, and generates $8 billion nationally in direct economic impact to the U.S. beer industry. It sounds like a lot, but not when comparing this total to other states like Colorado and California which generate $14.8 billion and $34.2 billion, respectively. Another recent analysis, from the Beer Institute, demonstrates how one job inside a brewery supports another 45 jobs outside.

Craft breweries give rise to diversity by sponsoring High Gravity Hip Hop Beer Fest, the first craft beer festival focused on promotion in this city directed towards a broader demographic. Getting the largest majority of our city into craft beer would be a financial windfall to the Georgia market. Events like the Great Atlanta Beer Fest, held on September 6th, can only help influence atypical craft beer enthusiasts by providing an outstanding atmosphere for what will soon be the biggest beer event in all of Atlanta.

Georgia has a three tier beer distribution system in place, which can make it difficult for small breweries to thrive. In a three tier system, the brewer, whether it is Anheuser Busch or Decatur’s Blue Tarp Brewery, sells its products to a distributor, who in turn sells it to a retailer or bar where Joe Sixpack can purchase his favorite brew.

What that means, though, is that a brewery or brewpub cannot sell you a growler to take home after you stop in for a drink or a meal during happy hour. The sale of growlers themselves has always been legal, provided that the beer was purchased through a distributor.

During the 2013/2014 legislative session, Dunwoody Republican Rep. Tom Taylor introduced House Bill 314, which would have allowed limited on-premises sales of beer by a brewery or brewpub. A similar bill was introduced in the State Senate by Josh McKoon of Columbus as Senate Bill 174. A study committee examined the issue mid session, and ultimately neiwther piece of legislation passed last spring.

Despite the lack of progress, the Council “hope[s] to see this legislation pass in the future, as it would allow Georgia the traction it needs to transform surrounding Atlanta communities into craft brewery hubs.”