Raising the Standard at UGA since 2013.

Trouble at the Taps

Creature Comforts Brewery of Athens, GA; a staple of the burgeoning craft beer scene. Photo courtesy of Jamie at https://www.flickr.com/photos/63405864@N04/14508695594/in/photostream/

Despite the ability of Breweries and distilleries to sell much more alcohol, there has been some recent disdain for the new policy because of new pricing and lack of a “brewery experience.”

On September 1st of this year, a new alcohol law went into effect that forever changed the aggrandizing craft brewing and distilling community in the state of Georgia. The new legislation was the culmination of decades of fierce fighting between Georgia brewers/distillers and the wealthy, politically connected Georgia Wholesalers Association. As The Arch Conservative has previously reported, Georgia brewers and distillers can now sell a limited amount of beer and spirits directly to the consumer. Previously, breweries and distillers were forced to sell tour tickets with the promise of “free samples” at the end of the tour. For breweries, “free samples” were limited to 36 ounces of beer per customer, per day. For distilleries, “free samples” meant only three half-ounce samples per customer, per day. In addition, distillers were not allowed to serve their customers mixed-drinks of any kind. Georgia Senate Bill 85, which is now in effect, allows direct sales of beer, spirits, and cocktails to patrons. It also allows the aforementioned patrons to purchase up to a case (288 ounces) of beer and three 750ml bottles of spirits to take off the brewery and distillery property. Georgia brewers and distillers have struggled in the past to make a profit and stay in business due to Georgia’s distribution laws, which are some of the strictest and most archaic  in the United States. While this law is likely to tremendously help these establishments, some craft beer lovers are having a tough time getting used to the new policy.

Before Georgia Senate bill 85, Athens’ own Creature Comforts Brewery would charge $14 for students, or  $12 if they brought a glass of their own. Customers would receive an educational tour of the brewery and 32oz of “free samples” of their choosing. After Georgia SB 85, Creature Comfort currently sells 5, 10, and 16oz glasses at the prices ranging from  $2.50-$7.50 depending on both the size of the glass as well as the specific type of beer. On some occasions, a patron could find themselves spending more money for the same amount of beer without being required to tour the brewery. This is where most of the criticism has arisen over the new law. Despite the fact that you are able to purchase much more beer at breweries, many customers, specifically those of college-age, feel cheated out of the normal amount of beer that they would have received before the law. In addition, some craft beer lovers criticize the law for removing the required educational tour from the brewery visiting experience. “The tour promotes the idea of trying new beers. “I feel as if consumers, specifically college students, will hesitate to frequent the brewery [Creature Comforts] because of the individual pricing in the new system,” says UGA graduate and craft beer connoisseur Austin Stone. In other words, breweries and distilleries are becoming more like bars, thus entering into an already oversaturated market here in Athens, Georgia. In fact, when I reached out to another Athens favorite, Terrapin Beer Co., asking about the new policy they said, “We basically sell pints just like a bar now.” Many people, including myself, are afraid that the novelty of going to a local brewery will wear off and these breweries will once again be struggling to turn a profit.

That being said, there are still many people who are very pleased with the new policy and are frequenting these drinking establishments more often,as well as spending more money per visit. Despite some recent disdain for the new policy, this can still be considered a huge victory for the craft brewing and distilling community. The fight for distribution rights has been a long and grueling one where we have seen an obscene amount of money spent to keep existing laws in place and attempts to modify them. While the breweries and distilleries may have won this round, there are still many more to go in the fight over alcohol distribution in Georgia. But still, never before have these breweries and distilleries been allowed to distribute their own alcohol, regardless of whether they sell more or less within the brewery itself, the new policy is bound to help these businesses get their name out to ultimately sell more product. It will be interesting to see if these establishments will ultimately benefit through the ability to sell more of their product directly to consumers, or if they will suffer from a potential elimination of the quintessential “brewery and distillery experience” and become nothing more than another neighborhood bar.

Ian LaCroix is a sophomore studying political science. He is a regular contributor to The Arch Conservative. 

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