The desire and fight for Georgia breweries to be able to sell beer direct to customers in their own tasting rooms has been discussed in this column several times. One constant in those discussions has been that Georgia did not have the worst direct sales laws in the United States. That dubious title fell to Alabama. Alabama’s laws excluded direct sales completely… until recently. Alabama has updated its direct sales laws, becoming one of the most lenient states in the union in regards to off premises brewery sales.
The boom in craft beer has led many states to reduce the restrictions on direct sales to tap into a growing craft beer tourist market. In 2015 craft beer was a $22.3 billion dollar market, and saw a 16% growth. With that in mind lets take a look at the direct sales laws of Georgia and the states adjacent to our home state.
When you visit one of our local breweries you can leave with a fair amount of beer but the law requires both the brewery and the customer to jump through some hoops.
Georgia breweries are not allowed to sell you beer for on or off premises consumption. They are allowed to sell you a tour that includes a “souvenir” sampling of beer not to exceed 36 ounces per person per calendar day IF the tour is two hours long. If the tour is less than two hours you can be served no more than 24 ounces of beer. Georgia breweries can also send you home with souvenir beer but that is capped at 72 ounces. Many breweries sell tour packets with several options including growlers, cans and crowlers.
Breweries have been able to sell samples and pints for on site consumption in Alabama for a while. The sticking point in the state was that breweries could not sell beer of any amount for off site consumption and all beer had to go through a distributor first. That all changed on June 1.
Breweries in Alabama can now sell up to 288 ounces of beer for take away with no restrictions on alcohol by weight (ABW), something that had been limited in the past, even on samples sold in the taprooms.
Florida breweries have long been able to sell beer on premises. Originally that was because of a tourist loophole in laws surrounding the Busch Gardens theme park. They have since been codified to make beer sales beer accessible across the board. Florida had trouble in the past getting beer laws passed because of the strength of the beer distribution laws but that has passed.
According to Joshua Aubuchon, General council for the Florida Brewers Guild, “there are no restrictions on what Florida breweries may sell for off-premises consumption to consumers, which may include cans, bottles, kegs, growlers, crowlers, etc., in any amount. Florida breweries may also sell products for on-premises consumption, including those products from other manufacturers.”
South Carolina realized early on that craft beer had tourism dollar potential. In June of 2014 South Carolina’s governor signed the so called” Stone Bill,” intended to make the state a more attractive site for Stone Brewing’s east coast expansion plan. Stone settled elsewhere but the bill made beer consumption on site at breweries possible. There are a few quirks to the laws but for the most part you can purchase and take away anything you want.
Samples are permitted in a brewery taproom, provided the alcohol content is 12% ABW or less. No more than 48 ounces can be sold for on-premise consumption, and of that total no more than 16 ounces can contain above 8% ABW. Off-premise consumption sales are also permitted as long as the beer is 14% ABW or less and the total sold can’t exceed 288 ounces in total.
Tennessee, like South Carolina, has a limitation (if you can call it that) on the amount of high gravity beers but for the most part it is otherwise open
Breweries in Tennessee can sell beer for both on-premises and off-premises consumption at the same location but high alcohol beer is limited to, a ridiculously high 5.17 gallons (1/6 barrel) per person, per day! Breweries do have a cap on how much off premises beer that can sell at 5,000 barrels per month but again that’s a pretty big number.
As you can see Georgia law is off kilter from the states surrounding us. Things are slowly getting better but until we clear up our laws we’ll always be behind our neighbors.