Beer Town: Finally in Georgia, you’ll be able to buy a beer at a brewery

March 22, 2017 Bob Townsend

From left to right: Brewmaster Mitch Steele and co-founders Carey Falcone and Bob Powers at the future home of New Realm Brewing Co. near Atlanta’s Beltline. PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Hanna Photography and New Realm Brewing Co.

I’m happy to report that this may be the last time I will ever need to write about Georgia beer laws in a negative way.

And if all goes according to plan, I will never again proffer a horrible headline that asks, “Is Georgia the worst state in the U.S. for craft brewing?”

Here’s the wonderful news: The 2017 Georgia House and Senate voted in favor of legislation to allow consumers to purchase beer or spirits at the brewery or distillery where it’s made.

In plain English, that means that you, my fellow beer lovers, will soon be able to go to your favorite Georgia brewery, sit down in the tasting room, order a pint or two, and pay for it — just like the residents of 49 other states are allowed to do now.

What’s more, visitors to breweries will be able to purchase up to one case of beer to go, and purchase food without the current tour and tasting requirements.

“This legislation is a victory for small businesses across our state from Blue Ridge to the Golden Isles,” said Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “I appreciate all of the stakeholders coming together and working out a solution that empowers our craft brewers and distillers to create more jobs.”

Can I get a big amen for the words of the speaker? And a big thank-you for the author of Senate Bill 85, Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, and Rep. Howard Maxwell, R-Dallas, who carried it in the House, where it passed with a vote of 147 to 14?

Of course, all credit is due to the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild and executive director Nancy Palmer.

The guild has been fighting the good fight for many years. And under the guidance of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, it was finally able to come to terms with the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association and other interests.

The law is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1, which will be one of the most exciting dates in Georgia craft beer history.

Despite the obstacles the state put in the way, the growth of craft beer in Georgia over the past decade has been truly remarkable. And the future looks even brighter, now.

“When we first went down to the Capitol a few years ago, people didn’t even know who we were, and legislators just didn’t want to touch this issue,” said Monday Night Brewing Co. co-founder Joel Iverson, who is the past president of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild.

Now, Monday Night is building a second brewery focusing on barrel-aged and sour beers that will be located in a new complex under construction on the Atlanta Beltline’s Southwest corridor.

“It’s kind of perfect timing, because we’re hoping to open when the law goes into effect,” Iverson said. “If you’re on the Beltline, and just want to pop in for a pint of beer, we’ll be right there.”

Former Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele and beer industry veterans Carey Falcone and Bob Powers are set to open New Realm Brewing Co., an innovative 20,000-square-foot production brewery, brewpub, beer garden and rooftop bar located on Ralph McGill Boulevard near the Beltline.

“We recognized that Georgia has some of the most restrictive beer regulations in the country,” Falcone said. “That almost forced us to make a different decision. But as an Atlantan, I felt it was important to locate our brewery here.

“We hoped that we could have a positive impact by joining forces with the other craft brewers in the state to effect change. We still have work to do. But once these laws change, we feel the Georgia craft beer market will explode, and Atlanta will be an epicenter for the movement, spurring economic development, job creation and tourism.”

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