While the craft beer industry keeps growing, some arcane laws affecting craft beer sales—such as whether beers can cross state lines—are still on the books. What may be more surprising is the fact that there are still five states in the U.S. where breweries aren’t allowed to sell their beer directly to the public. Georgia is on of those states, along with Mississippi, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Hawaii.
Currently, breweries in the state are allowed to give “free samples” of their beer to visitors, so GA breweries charge money for souvenir pint glasses and then fill them with “free beer.” However, the current law also says that they must give free beer to anyone who brings in their own glass. It’s also worth noting that this same Prohibition-era law doesn’t apply to the state’s wineries.
Photo: Flickr/Matthew Hurst
But the Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild is trying to do something about the state’s stale beer laws. They’ve worked to officially introduce SB 63, more commonly called “The Beer Jobs Bill,” to the state legislature. If passed, Beer Street Journal explains that SB 63 would allow breweries to sell pints of beer to the public in any amount that doesn’t exceed 72 ounces per person per day, as well as up to 144 ounces of packaged beer to-go per person per day. That means breweries could fill up your growler and send you on your way. Brewpubs would also be subject to the same regulations and amounts.
Nancy Palmer, who is the executive director of the GCBG, told Beer Street Journal that passage of this bill could bring a lot more tourism to Georgia—resulting in an economic impact of as much as $1 billion.
Of course, existing beer distributors in the state don’t want to see this change happen, because it would cut them out of the picture. If breweries in Georgia can sell directly to the public, they won’t need distributors anywhere near as much. Beer Street Journal reports that Georgia’s Lt. Governor Casey Cagle received $130,756.57 from the alcohol industry during his last campaign, and that the majority of that money came from opponents of SB 63. So it didn’t surprise anyone when the GCBG broke the news that Cagle was trying to prevent this bill from even being heard on the floor.
Photo: Flickr/Sara D.
What’s interesting about craft beer fans is that even though we’re all over the country (and the world), there’s still this incredible sense of community. As Fortune neatly sums up, the international craft beer community ramped up calls to action on social media and beyond.
An online petition for the Beer Jobs Bill currently has 17,843 signatures. Meanwhile, the creators of the Synek draft beer system contacted all their Kickstarter backers to tell them about the Georgia Beer Jobs Bill and encourage them to contact Georgia’s senators and get involved. Bill co-sponsor Senator Hunter Hill even did a Reddit AMA about the bill. How this battle turns out could be a major development for the craft beer industry.
Eric Stoddard, Synek’s director of customer engagement, wrote in the email:
If you want to get involved, here’s Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s contact page, as well as his Facebook and Twitter. Also, here’s the full list of Georgia State Senators and their contact info.
Provided this bill does make it to a vote, Beer Street Journal believes “it will surely pass.”