11 Jan 2019

The Georgia Beer Bill: One Year Later

It’s been nearly a year and a half since Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 85, otherwise known as the “booze bill,” into law. The legislation allows breweries and distilleries to sell their products directly to consumers who patronize their locations. Now that the law has been in effect for a year, it’s time to examine how the craft beer direct sales economy boost is going.

We know that America’s brewing industry has snowballed in recent years, with 36 states more than doubling their craft beer production from 2011 to 2016, according to The Craft Beer Guidebook to Real Estate from JLL. As it’s grown, it’s played a key role in the transformation of previously abandoned light-industrial buildings and turning barren neighborhoods into thriving communities. According to the Brewers Association (BA), there were more than 5,300 small and independent breweries operating last year, including 826 new operations and only 97 closings. The growth added about 7,000 jobs to local economies for a total of 129,000 Americans employed by craft breweries.
For Georgia, one of the main appeals of SB85 was the economic benefits craft brewers would bring to their respective areas. It’s no surprise that Atlanta has been center to a lot of growth in the industry, but it’s on the periphery where the new law is having some of the biggest changes. Opening in January 2018, New Realm Brewing has been a game changer. Not only did it bring world-renowned brewmaster Mitch Steele to Atlanta, but it debuted a new kind of hybrid brewery restaurant concept and built it on a busy stretch of the Beltline that offers stunning sunset views of the skyline.

Growth is also occurring outside the Atlanta metro area. Wild Leap, in LaGrange, opened last fall, and is offering a diverse lineup of handcrafted beers. One resident quoted, “I think it’s pretty awesome. Of course, being an associate broker, I’m always interested in real estate, and I saw this building empty for so many years,” Ormsby said. “I’m really happy that we have a brewery open in town we really needed a nice microbrewery in town.”  Beacon Brewing Company, also in La Grange opened early in 2018, partnering up with local farmers and wholesalers to deliver Southern inspired fusion cuisine that’s delighting local taste buds. The owners state that they, “can’t wait to see our community connect over meals together, and inspire great memories of their own.” Reports indicate that the brewpub is helping bring the historic Hillside to life again. 

The number of breweries and distilleries in Georgia has grown significantly in the past five years, but it’s the last two that have been most impressive. There’s been a 70.4% increase since 2016, and there are plans for two dozen or more of these businesses to open up within the state by the end of 2018. A few statistics on this skyrocketing growth: 

  • As of Dec. 31, 2017 there were 48 production breweries and 27 brewpubs operating in Georgia, plus 5 cideries and 4 meaderies2017 | 13 new breweries and 10 new brewpubs opened (38.9% growth from 2016)2016 | 7 new breweries and 3 new brewpubs opened (22.7% growth from 2015)

In order for a brewery or distillery to sell their products directly to the public, food must account for 50% of their revenue. This presents a lot of opportunities for new and existing producers to partner up with local chefs, bakeries, farmers, and craftsmen to create unique experiences for customers. It’s also an opportunity to revitalize older industrial buildings that are often perfect for redeveloping as breweries, such as the location of Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse in West Point. The owners purchased a dilapidated furniture warehouse in summer of 2017, to turn it in their modern brewery.  

By the year’s end, a diverse variety of new brewpubs and distilleries are planning to open in the state Georgia. Big Kettle Brewing & Ironshield Beer, hosted by Beer Republic, is scheduled to open in Lawrenceville by the end of 2018, and Big Oak Brewing started raising capital at the beginning of the year with plans to open doors by the end of 2018. Each new location is likely to contribute to the craft beer direct sales economy boost.

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