Breaking: Deal reached in craft brewery battle

Georgia’s craft beer and liquor industries have reached an agreement with the state’s wholesalers that will end a contentious battle over how these small businesses operate, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

All sides have agreed to a regulatory solution that will avoid a fight over legislation this year. The deal, according to the Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association, means the Department of Revenue will issue new rules that will:

  • Allow brewers again to sell brewery tours at variable prices based on the kind of beer offered.
  • Allow special events at breweries and distilleries.
  • Let brewers, distilleries and wholesalers use social media to alert the public about where to buy their products or advertise special events.
  • Allow third parties to sell tour tickets.
  • Let breweries and distilleries sell food on site.

Martin Smith, spokesman for the beer wholesalers said the deal is a victory for all sides.

“We’re thrilled about the compromise and thank our brewer partners and the (Georgia Craft Brewers) Guild for working to make this happen,” Smith said.

Lawmakers last year passed legislation that allowed Georgians to buy a tour of a brewery and receive free beer afterward. Once the law took effect, breweries began offering different tours at different prices based on the kind and price of beer offered.

Two months later, however, in September, the Department of Revenue issued new rules that said the tour price cannot vary based on the beer given away. The brewers were furious and argued the agency had succumbed to the wishes of the wholesalers.

Soon, the AJC reported, Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, urged the department to reverse course.

The brewers and distillers then banded together to draft legislation this year that would have sought major changes to the state’s alcohol laws.

Today's deal, Smith said, includes an agreement that the brewers and distillers will not seek any legislative changes this year.

Smith said Ralston, Shafer, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Nathan Deal’s staff were all involved in reaching an agreement.