Brewers in Middle Georgia are among those looking forward to doing more business as the Legislature moves to authorize limited alcohol sales directly to thirsty Georgians.
“It’s going to be a huge deal. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around exactly how we’re going to take advantage of it,” said Jeremy Knowles, owner and founder of Macon Beer Co., the brewery on Oglethorpe Street.
The bill approved by lawmakers dismantles part of a decades-old system that put a distributor between the people who make alcoholic drinks and the people who drink them.
Senate Bill 85 makes an exception to that “three-tier” system by specifying that, subject to annual limits, brewers and distillers will be able to sell a certain amount of their products straight to consumers without going through a distributor.
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Brewers will be able to sell each customer up to a case of beer a day. For distillers, it’ll be three 750-milliliter bottles. (A 750 milliliter bottle is roughly 25.4 fluid ounces.)
So beside to-go sales, the bill could mean that Knowles’ tasting room will be a larger part of his business, that it will be open more days and hours. He is, however, still waiting on detailed state rules that could follow if the bill becomes law.
Over on Second Street, Ocmulgee Brewpub Marketing Director Kaitlynn Kressin said the new law is awesome and that Georgia has been a little behind the times in terms of alcohol sales.
Because Ocmulgee is a brewpub — it has a full kitchen — they’re already able to sell pints for drinking on site and growlers to take home.
“But something that will be cool for us is being able to sell six-packs, so we’re going to look into potentially doing a bottling line and bottling some of our beer to sell from our store,” she said.
Meanwhile, Brian Whitley is preparing for the Monday opening of the newest addition to Macon’s craft beer scene, Piedmont Brewery and Kitchen, where he’s a co-owner.
He said he looks at the bill as a rising tide that will lift all boats, including brewpubs like Piedmont. He said it’ll create more jobs and more awareness for craft beer.
“Georgia is so far behind when it comes to craft beer sales and craft beer production that there’s so much room for growth in this state,” Whitley said.
Maybe even in Macon. He said Piedmont’s business model now focuses on the Third Street walk-in traffic, but they are looking at perhaps opening a bigger facility in a few years and brewing for distribution.
“There’s some room for growth for us and it’s a part of our trajectory,” he said.
Knowles also said that he expects the beer industry in Georgia will explode.
“The business model just flips. It makes it where you can actually earn money, retail, off your beer,” he said.
But there are a few steps yet between brewers and imbibers. The bill is now on Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for his review.
Then Knowles is looking for what are called in the jargon state “rules and regulations.” That’s a normal part of what state agencies often do, figure out finer detail on how to carry out new laws.
What Knowles is worried about is possible rules that might limit how he can or can’t sell that case per day per customer.
He also said he’d like to have a little more flexibility about how he can use his space. For example, he’d like to be able to be able to rent his space for events, but also let those customers bring other drinks like wine on site.
But overall, he said, the bill is “very, very positive.”
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee