Beer brewers and beer drinkers in Georgia could soon do a lot more business with each other.
A bill filed in the state Senate on Thursday would lift part of the broad ban on direct sales from brewer to beer drinker.
Jeremy Knowles, owner and founder of Macon Beer Co., had not heard about the bill as of Thursday morning, but he said loosening the ban would probably create one job almost immediately in his tasting room.
“Direct sales would be something we’ve been looking for for a long time,” he said.
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Right now, Georgia brewers can give away a small amount of beer with the purchase of a brewery visit. For the most part, though, wholesalers stand between brewers and consumers.
Those decades-old rules date from a time when lawmakers thought breweries and beer needed a little more regulation.
But now, fans of direct sales are making an economic argument, saying that brewing means jobs.
Wholesalers have opposed previous proposals for direct sales. But they are not criticizing this one.
“We’ve always been supportive of ways to grow the industry. Sometimes it takes different angles to do that, ways to make it work,” said Martin Smith, executive director of the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association.
The bill would allow breweries to do a couple of new things. They could sell beer to drink at the brewery, without marketing it as a “tour” souvenir. They could sell beer for drinking off-premises, limited to 288 ounces per customer per day. Those on-site and off-site sales combined would be capped at 3,000 barrels per year.
A case of beer is about 288 ounces. Three thousand barrels is about a million bottles of beer, according to the association.
Knowles said that such a bill would be good news if passed, and he might open his tasting room four or five days a week. He did say, though, he would rather not see sales limited to the 288 ounces per person per day. That prevents him from selling more to a customer who may want to serve Macon Beer at a big event.
The bill was filed by state Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough. It had about a dozen signatures when he filed it. It also drew positive remarks from state House and Senate leaders.
“I think that it levels the playing field and it responds to, quite frankly, strong public support ... for having the playing field more level, and I want to thank all the stakeholders on both sides of that issue that have been involved and for the good work they’ve done,” said state House Speaker David Ralson, R-Blue Ridge.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, in a written statement, said that he thanks the industries for agreeing to a solution.
“We all share a common interest, and that’s supporting our emerging small businesses that are creating more jobs for Georgia’s families,” Cagle said.
The bill also has the support of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, a trade organization.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee