Georgia's Prohibition-era liquor laws require a "three-tiered" distribution system in which breweries sell to wholesalers, and wholesalers sell to retailers. To enforce that system, the state Revenue Department is proposing new rules that would limit beer tasting at Georgia's 11 breweries to two-ounce swigs per variety, with a maximum of 16 ounces per customer.
The three big GA Brewers are Sweetwater, Atlanta Brewing, and Terrapin. First two in Atlanta, third in Athens. Since these companies have a limited advertising budget, almost all PR comes from festivle appearances, word of mouth, events, and these tasting tours.
Typically the tours are filled with college aged frat boys with popped collars and frayed baseball hats. The tastings turn into a long waiting line for the tap and no one goes to see where the wort is made, things are fermented, etc. It is a 1-2 hour beer guzzling contest costing 7-8 bucks. The crowds can exceed 500 as this turns into more of a social scene and less of a tour and tasting event; some people who show up might not even enter the building.
In a sense, I agree with the premise behind the new rule. I would like to see people at these events that care about craft beer and not about today's buzz. I would like Fratty McFrat and Tag-A-Long Suzzie Soro to chug-a-lug somewhere else. But, these brewers have a business, and they chose this route ... and for good reasons.
Within the last two years, both ABC and Sweetwater have moved and expanded. Both companies also invested in better "tasting rooms" equipped with large open spaces, fast flowing taps, places for bands to play, and plenty of parking. The several thousand dollar investment each is meant to keep the college kids coming. Even though these local craft brews go for 2 or 3 times the price of a PBR and Nattie Light, the goal is to get kids interested in local crafts as they start tasting the wonderful world of non-watered down beer. Maybe play it off of good taste, maybe make it the cool thing to do. Victories come when the kids order a pitcher of the expensive stuff at a bar, or a pony for a party, when there is plenty of bland Bud Light to flow around. People who regularly try craft beers will eventually work there way to these locals through word of mouth or good beer store displays, while these older college kids get exposed through the mechanism created by these tasting/guzzling rooms.
So, while the current situation is not to my liking, I do support the brewers in having these tasting rooms with plenty of beer flowing. Luckily, many other people agree and the DoR has come under scrutiny. They are "reevaluating" the situation. As for now, most likely I'll be testing the new over hopped dark malt local creations at home.
Revenue department officials held public meetings in which the comments went overwhelmingly against the proposed limits. Now, the agency is reviewing the input and weighing what to do next.
A decision is expected this summer.
"Our policy folks are wading through it now," said Mack Chandler, assistant to the commissioner. "We'll make a recommendation sooner rather than later."
Beer 'tastings': Just another happy hour? - AJC