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What's on tap? Georgia law begins today to open beer sales at breweries

New rules for breweries and brewpubs across the state changed at the stroke of midnight Friday, and Nick Tanner of Forsyth County’s Cherry Street Brewing Co-op thinks it could be the beginning of something new for Georgia breweries.

Senate Bill 85 went into effect Sept. 1 and now allows breweries to sell directly to the community and clarifies that brewpubs are allowed to sell to go beer if allowed by their county. The bill was approved by the state legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal in May. 

Where can you go for a drink?

Many local breweries are holding events to celebrate the new beer sales law. Here’s what’s going on this weekend.

Cherry Street Brewing Co-op

  • 5817 S. Vickery Street, Cumming
  • “Barrel Aged Brew Haha”
  • 4-8 p.m. through Sunday
SweetWater Brewing Company

  • 195 Ottley Drive NE, Atlanta
  • “New Hours, New Tours, New Experience”
  • Saturday, 4:20 p.m.-midnight

Jekyll Brewing

  • 2855 Marconi Drive, Ste 350, Alpharetta
  • “Better Later Than Never Party”
  • Friday, 4-11:45 p.m.

Left Nut Brewery

  • 2100 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
  • “Celebrate the New Era of Craft Brewing”
  • Friday, noon-10 p.m. 

Gate City Brewing Company

  • 43 Magnolia Street, Roswell
  • “Buy Beers, Not Tours”
  • Friday and Saturday, 11 p.m.-midnight
  • Sunday, 1 p.m.-midnight

“It’s a really good law,” Tanner said. “It’s a really good change for the consumer. It’s a really good change for communities, and it’s going to allow breweries to open not only in high-density areas but outside the city and other parts of the state, and they’ll be able to hire more of the local workforce and do more things.”

Previously, breweries were not allowed to directly sell beer to the customer and instead required them to purchase a tour of the brewery or a souvenir glass. Breweries would then give customers tickets to be exchanged for samples of beer.

To put it in to perspective, Tanner said, the new law will treat breweries “more like a bar than a museum.”

“You can go into a brewery and physically purchase a beer instead of a tour, which can include beer samples,” he said. “Starting [today], you’ll be able to walk into a brewery and say, ‘You know what, I’ll take a pint of that IPA right there,’ and you give them $5 and they give you a pint of beer and you hang out.

“The tour itself to the brewery was taxed, the admission, like an amusement park or museum or something like that, which is funny to look at it that way.”

Tanner said Cherry Street, a brewpub, was not affected by the tour portion of the law.

Instead, the change for brew pubs was to clarify state rules for selling beer to go, which Cherry Street has been doing for a year after county commissioners approved a first for a restaurant to sell beer and wine by the package in July 2016.

“So, last year when we got the ordinance changed here in Forsyth and around the state actually to be able to sell beer out of our shops, like in growlers and stuff, that it actually wasn’t solidified in the code,” Tanner said. “It was more so an interpretation that the Department of Revenue said, ‘If a brewpub wants to sell beer to go, that’s a local issue not a state issue.’”

Under the new law, customers can purchase up to a case, 24-, or 12-ounce beers to go per person per day from breweries and brewpubs.

The to go sales have made a big impact on the business.

“Since July last year, we’ve doubled our production, doubled our seating in the tap room and we’ve doubled our employment,” Tanner said. “For something as simple and novel as a brewery or brew pub selling beer to go, it has been tremendous for us. Beyond tremendous.” 

Tanner said he doesn’t think that will be unique to Cherry Street and that it will help the financial side of small and start-up breweries.

“Ultimately, it is going to allow breweries to re-invest back into themselves each year,” he said. “It’s going to allow breweries like us to hire more staff and more people and, ultimately, it has a quicker return for breweries.”