In North Carolina brewers have been able to sell directly since the 1980s. Georgia has what’s called a “three-tier system” for alcohol. Making beer, distributing beer and retailing beer are three activities that must be done by three separate companies. The resistance to any change is because the state use the wholesalers more or less as private tax collectors. This has nothing to do about safety, conveniences, and certainly not capitalism. Nor does it have anything to do with what consumers overwhelmingly want. It is simply about tax collection and money from lobbying by distributors who do not want to give up their lucrative monopoly that is almost like a printing press for cash.
Georgia is increasingly becoming an island as other states have loosened up and allow direct sales. Certainly distributors would still be needed as many small brewers do not have a fleet of trucks, warehouses, or the logistics to deliver all over the state or nation when they are a small local operation. But many craft brewers would still like the ability to at least sell direct from an on-site brewery.
Currently that is not allowed and the public can only order from other restaurants or shops but not from the brewery itself. That is a huge problem for a small company trying to build a brand and get people to know about their product. How will people know about the beer if they can’t try it? It is a catch-22 and a reason craft brewers are hoping 2015 is the year Georgia will get with the times and follow a growing national trend.
I had started this article a few days ago and hoped to finish it today, but then I saw this article by Creative Loafing that had already done a fantastic job of explaining all the issues. Since I am a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel I will instead refer any of you interested in craft beer laws in Georgia to read their article instead and I will bow out gracefully.
During my research however I did look into the three tier distribution system and discovered some interesting data on a certain University System of Georgia member of the Board of Regents member. Donald M. Leebern Jr. is the Chairman of Georgia Crown Distributing which is among the largest distributors of alcohol in Georgia and also neighboring states. He is also among the biggest donators to politicians in the state which includes Nathan Deal and many more.
I will instead devote my time to an article that focuses on his influence and opposition to craft beers laws and hope to get that published soon. In the meantime please check out the fantastic article below by Creative Loafing.