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Tapped In: Craft beer lovers cry “Prohibition unfairness!”

February 21, 2015, 1:00 PM UTC
American craft beer exports overseas are starting to grow
DENVER, CO - APRIL 07: Bottles make their way to be filled in the processing room at Great Divide Brewing in Denver, Monday, April 07, 2014. American craft beer exports overseas are starting to grow. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photograph by RJ Sangosti — Denver Post via Getty Images

The craft beer community is a tight-knit group – especially when it senses a threat. And these days it has the Georgia legislature in its sights.

Brewers and beer loving activists have converged to lobby for the passage of SB 63, better known as the Beer Jobs Bill. The bill would legalize off-premises sales within the state – or, in more direct terms, would allow breweries to sell pints (up to 72 ounces) or to-go growlers (up to 144 ounces) where the beer is made.

Right now, that’s technically illegal, thanks to Prohibition-era regulations. While breweries can offer free tours and tastings (up to 32 oz.), they’re not allowed to charge for the beer. (To get around that, breweries charge a higher amount for a “souvenir” pint glass that comes with free “samples” – though they’re legally required to give out free beer to people who bring their own glass in as well.)

Georgia’s one of just five states where brewers can’t sell beer directly to the public – so it’s a change that would seem pretty innocuous. The Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association, however, isn’t too pleased about the proposal. It sees the bill as a threat to the existing three-tier system regulating alcohol sales in the state. (That group appears to be ignoring the fact that Georgia wineries are already selling their product in their facilities.)

The bill has bipartisan support, but the GBWA is a powerful lobby. That’s what got craft beer lovers in the fight.

An online petition has garnered over 17,000 digital signatures. Kickstarter darling Synek sent a note out to all of its backers urging them to call and write the state’s senators (offering addresses, phone numbers and a suggested email to send). And Sen. Hunter Hill (R), who sponsored SB 63, recently hosted a Reddit AMA about the bill.

“We’re not all from Georgia, but we’re all part of this global beer community,” wrote Eric Stoddard, Synek’s director of customer engagement. “Let’s make this change and set a precedent for beer laws worldwide.”

It makes sense that Georgia craft beer lovers would assemble to support this bill, as it directly impacts their ability to get more of the drafts they enjoy. But, as is often the case, there’s plenty of support from people thousands of miles away.

That’s not as unusual as it might sound, says Bart Watson, staff economist at the Brewers Association. Craft breweries tend to create tremendous customer loyalty – and that can be used as a lobbying force of its own.

“We still see craft being a community where there’s a lot of support across state lines,” he says. “People want to try these beers and want to see the craft beer industry in Georia grow. … If you’re thinking about coming to Georgia as a tourist, this is something that will make it much easier to get a beer from those breweries.”

There are, in fact, some great beers coming out of Georgia these days. If you haven’t had the chance to sample any, here are a few suggestions (and, if you have had the chance, let us know your favorites in the comments below – especially from smaller operations that aren’t able to distribute yet):

Terrapin Hopsecutioner

With a name like "Hopsecutioner," you might expect an overwhelming amount of hops. Instead, this IPA (which, notably, is not a double or triple) has a good hoppy kick at the start, but smoothes out with citrus, rye and pine notes. It's a heavy, filling beer - but one that has a clean finish. Hopsheads may complain that it doesn't live up to its name, but others would argue it's not overwhelmed by the hops. (ABV: 7.3%)

Sweetwater IPA

A wonderful blend of hops and citrus and pine, this IPA is a bit more intense than Sweetwater's better-known 420 (a personal favorite of mine), but not one that overpowers your tastebuds. It's a crisp, medium-bodied beer that uses its carbonation to avoid overpowering you with its strong flavors. You'll get hints of grapefruit and even pineapple on the finish, which blend wonderfully with the bitterness of the hops. (ABV: 6.3%)

Red Hare Long Day Lager

Lagers can be controversial in the craft world - and, admittedly, Red Hare's may seem a little weak to people used to IPAs, but Long Day is a craft beer answer for the person who wants to quickly quench their thirst after a day of yard work. It's grassy and malty with just the slightest hint of hops. Light- to medium-bodied, it's also terrific with spicy foods. (ABV: 4.98%)

Terrapin Mosaic Red Rye IPA

We generally like to not repeat breweries in these recommendations, but this seasonal from Terrapin is special enough that it's worth bending that rule. It has a very fruity aroma, but the taste is a nice blend of rye, hops and citrus. The hops build slowly as you taste the beer, rather than overwhelming you at the start - and the malt keeps them in check throughout the tasting. It's a big, full bodied beer that walks right up to the line, but never crosses it. (ABV: 6.2%)


Creature Comforts Tropicalia

Full candor: I haven't had the chance to try this one in person yet (though hope to rectify that soon). Those who have, though, rave about its "near-perfect" blend of hops and malt with a heavy citrus influence, giving it a tropical feel. Right now, it's only available in Athens, Ga., though the brewery recently doubled its capacity and plans on expanding into Atlanta soon. (ABV: 6.5%)