Wednesday, February 20, 2013

House Bill 314 proposes retail sales for brewpubs and breweries

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Creative Loafing's Feb. 7 cover story, which was written by a talented and attractive young man, examined the state of Georgia's booming craft-beer union. While there are many reasons to be excited about the new breweries coming to the Peach State, there are also some obstacles. Homebrewer, podcaster and craft-beer enthusiast Blake Tyers lamented Atlanta's growler situation in particular. "Currently, I can buy growlers from candy shops, corner stores, butchers, gas stations, you name it," he said. "All these places, and I still can't buy beer from a brewer."

If passed, Georgia House Bill 314 would change that. The bill would:

...provide for limited exceptions to the three-tier system for the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages; to change the definition of the term 'brewpub'; to provide for limited retail sales by brewers of malt beverages manufactured on their premises for off-premises consumption; to provide for the collection of applicable taxes on such sales; to change certain provisions relating to the terms and conditions that exist for owners and operators of brewpubs to allow for retail sales of malt beverages manufactured on their premises for off-premises consumption; to change certain provisions relating to manufacturing limitations; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Got all that? Great. End of blog post ...

Just kidding! To put it more simply, HB 314 would give every Georgia brewpub (places that make their own beer in-house, such as the Wrecking Bar, Twain's, and Max Lager's) and brewery "the right to sell, for personal use and not for resale, a maximum of 288 ounces (which translates to one case) of malt beverages manufactured on its premises for off-premises consumption." If you need to purchase more than one case of beer per day, try to drink it in the parking lot, or sell it immediately after walking out the door, you're out of luck. You've also got some alcoholic-sociopathic issues we should maybe talk about?

HB 314 presents a gentle massaging of Georgia's version of the three-tiered distribution system. While it doesn't do away with the three-tiered paradigm - a necessary system that splits the alcohol industry into manufacturing, distribution, and retailing - entirely, it does loosen it in a limited way that benefits all parties. In his 2012 beer round-up, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Bob Townsend argued that Georgia's archaic interpretation of the law is worth consideration. "Where growlers aren't being sold may be the bigger story," he wrote. "Package stores that sell spirits [are] forbidden from getting into the game. And so [are] breweries and brewpubs. Those are places where growlers can be found in great beer states like California, Colorado and nearby North Carolina." Not to mention wineries can sell their product directly to consumers, which is crazy, because everybody knows beer is way cooler than wine, dogs rule and cats drool, etc.

HB 314 has had its first and second reads in the House, and will next be heard by the lower chamber's Regulated Industries committee. It also has a companion bill across the hall of the Gold Dome, Senate Bill 174. According to a brewer on a local beer listserv, lawmakers rarely hear from constituents on this topic, but they often hear from the opposition, most likely because there's a lot of money to be made in the distribution of alcohol. Georgia craft beer drinkers who think breweries and brewpubs should have the right - albeit limited - to sell their product directly to consumers for off-premise consumption should get in touch with their elected officials and tell them precisely that.

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