Late Tuesday, sources at the Capitol told Creative Loafing that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is exerting influence at the Gold Dome, hoping to ensure the bill dies in committee.
"He's the one telling [Regulated Industries Chairman and State Sen. Rick] Jeffares to sit on the bill," one said under condition of anonymity. "He's running for Governor in 2018. The distributors donated a lot of money to Deal, and Cagle wants that money. This is about campaign contributions when he runs. Could Jeffares break rank and call for a vote? Yes, but he won't. Cagle is in charge of Jeffares' future as a politician. Cagle has a good shot at being the next Governor — no one wants to piss him off."
The Senate Reg. Industries and Utilities Committee meeting is packed as we hear from @Hunter1Hill about SB 63 #gapol pic.twitter.com/mDUwtEwKK0
— Senate Press Office (@GASenatePress) February 18, 2015
Each side—brewers and wholesalers—was given 20 minutes to present its case via pre-chosen speakers. A vote scheduled for next week has been pushed back to the 26th day of the session, which will happen sometime in the first week of March. The bill has to pass through committee and a floor vote by Crossover Day (March 13) if it's to stay alive this session.
State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) kicked off the hearing by walking through the bill’s language and answering questions from Regulated Industries Committee members. “As legislators, we often get blamed as being for big business,” he began. “We rely on lobbyists a lot to help us understand the facts of the industry, and many times, it’s the largest businesses that are able to afford lobbyists. But that’s not our intention. Our intention is to help all Georgians. I know I’m not alone in wanting to help small business, and this bill does just that.”
Fresh off dropping at the Gold Dome in late January, Senate Bill 63, the so-called Beer Jobs Bill, has been assigned to the Regulated Industries Committee. If passed, SB 63 would allow for brewpubs and breweries to sell limited amounts of beer on-premise for off-premise consumption. Under current laws, Georgia brewpubs can sell beer in-house, but not to-go. Georgia breweries can't sell beer to anyone except their distributor.
Chaired by State Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), the Regulated Industries Committee has to hear the bill before anything else can happen. Jeffares, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer (R-Duluth), are the prominent decision makers at this juncture. Local writer Coleman Wood posted an excellent explainer of the bill’s trajectory, should SB 63 make it out of Regulated Industries.
As the Beer Jobs Bill begins its journey, politicians from both sides of the aisle are stepping up to show support for it. Conservative blogger Erick Erickson invited the bill’s lead sponsor, State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna), onto a recent episode of his radio show. (The beer discussion goes from roughly 1:05-10:17.)
In last week's Creative Loafing cover story, I explored a single question:
Why is Georgia one of the few states in the country that doesn't allow its breweries to sell their beer directly to customers, refusing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars from its homegrown beer industry?
The answer is a complicated one, but it mostly comes down to Georgia's wholesaler-friendly interpretation of the three-tier system of alcohol distribution. Oh, and all the money and influence the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association wields to insure that interpretation never changes. That's the short version. Here's the long one.
In case you missed it, CL's resident beer biographer Austin L. Ray penned last week's cover story, Craft Beer Buzzkill. (You've got till the end of the day to find a CL rack and get you one.) The story explores how Georgia’s antiquated distribution laws are hampering small business and discouraging national beer brands to bring their businesses to Georgia. Why is Georgia refusing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars from this homegrown industry? The piece was timed to coincide with start of Georgia's 2015 legislative session and, more to the point, Senate Bill 63 (aka the Beer Jobs Bill), which State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) introduced earlier today.
The Beer Jobs Bill—Senate Bill 63—just dropped. It has at least 10 sponsors, goes to first readers tomorrow, then gets assigned a committee.
— Austin L. Ray (@austinlouisray) January 28, 2015
An excerpt from Ray's piece:
Monday, the Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points donated 10 percent of its daily sales (and 100 percent of a handful of special kegs) to the beer bill fight. Despite the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association's argument that retailers are against modernizing beer laws in the state, Porter co-owner Molly Gunn says it's good for everyone.
"I am in no way against distributors nor do I think this bill will negatively affect them," she said. "I think improved craft beer culture in Georgia is good for them as well, because when I sell more beer, so do they."
Update: The Porter raised $4206.25.
A few more details of the forthcoming Beer Jobs Bill were released Monday courtesy of national beer news outlet Brewbound.com. According to the story, "the bill seeks to legalize sales of 12-packs for off-premise consumption and sales of up to six pints for on-premise quaffing." Georgia Craft Brewers Guild board members Nancy Palmer and Carly Wiggins are quoted, as well as Mo Thrash of Thrash-Haliburton, the government affairs firm the GCBG has hired to lobby on behalf of Georgia brewers this legislative session.
On Jan. 2, the GCBG's Indiegogo fundraising campaign ended with $12,101 contributed, almost half of its $30,000 goal. While the GCBG has participated in a number of festivals over the past year that have contributed to its cause, it seems some Atlanta retailers are stepping up to help fill the gap and show both their moral and monetary support.
Today at 12:12 p.m., Cumming's Cherry St. Brewing Co-Op celebrates two years by tapping its anniversary ale, 12.12.12, a 12-malt, 12-hop, 12 percent ABV Rye Barleywine aged for 12 months. (Cherry St. was first approved to make beer back on 12/12/12.) Alongside that specialty release, there will be a pair of "special barrel-aged beers" tapped as well. In addition to these, Cherry St. founder Nick Tanner is excited about a couple new releases.
"I'm excited about our Cherresy Lambic-style Braggot with Cherries," he says. "We sent one keg to The Porter and one keg to Strong Beer Fest, but this is our sour beer baby project. It's an excellent beer. Also, we brewed two kegs of our OASIS Imperial Stout for our brewer Chris' 40th birthday, and it was so good it will be a year round beer in the taproom. It's a 10% Imperial Stout with cocoa nibs and vanilla bean soaked in sasparilla whiskey and infused into the beer."
Seven Mastodon, beer, and Mastodon beer things for your weekend:
1. Mastodon plays the Tabernacle tonight. There are still tickets available.
2. Mastodon has a song called "Black Tongue." It's the first song from the band's 2011 album, The Hunter. It's a good song. Here's the video:
Orpheus Brewing makes Georgia beer history today, releasing the Peach State's first packaged sour beer, Atalanta. The brewery's popular tart plum Saison (CL's 2014 Best of Atlanta critics pick for Best New Beer) rolls out in aluminum cans along with Lyric Ale, a slightly hoppy, dry Saison. Both will be packaged as six packs available at area stores such as Hop City on the Westside, Marietta's Sprayberry Bottle Shop, and Doraville's Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits.
Orpheus brewmaster Jason Pellett tells Creative Loafing that Orpheus will stick with those two core cans for now. In early March they plan to start canning their rotating India Pale Ales, beginning with Transmigration of Souls. They'll start canning their rotating sours after that. Orpheus has a number of beers currently barrel-aging as well, including a Brett Saison in Sauternes barrels, an Atalanta in Sauternes barrels with fresh plums, Sykophantes aging in cognac barrels, and their next IPA, Truth.Body.Soul., which will be partially barrel-aged and fermented with Brettanomyces. Pellett hopes to release his first barrel beer in January.
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