“Incremental changes will only weaken the system to a point of total failure,” Smith said, leading to a loss of market access and limiting growth. “The demand for Georgia beer is strong, and because of this demand and the state’s distribution system, 100 percent of the beer produced in Georgia reaches the consumer.”
Georgia is the fifth-largest beer producer in the country and ranks 18th in craft beer production. But, brewers note, there’s a catch: Only about 2.2 million of the 6.2 million cases of craft beer Georgians drink each year are actually made by Georgia craft brewers.
Legislative changes in the past few years relaxed state regulations on wine sales — promoted at the time as an agricultural initiative, since grapes are grown at local vineyards — and allowing Sunday alcohol sales.
But the Beer Wholesalers’ Smith countered, “We must remember that at the time of the farm winery exemption, these producers were unable to reach the consumer for lack of demand and market access. … The state has a responsibility to ensure producers can reach the consumer and determined this could be done by allowing direct sales and distribution.”