Brewery Rules, AKA Why Southern Craft Beer is Behind

Eno Sarris, November 19, 2015

A recent story about Georgia beer is not flattering to the state of their internal politics. 

The short of it: breweries aren't allowed to sell beer for on or off brewery consumption in Georgia, and they've been trying to change this, naturally. They thought they got a conscession when the state recently allowed breweries to sell different tour packages tied to samples at the end. The breweries hired more staff and expanded taprooms. The distributors got to the lawmakers (it looks like) and the rule was amended to say that the tour package prices may not be tied to the amount of alcohol served at the end. 

It's a tragic turn of events that stinks of the kickbacks and corrupt politics that most Georgia residents should be familiar with. It's enough to make you want to shout at water

It also might serve as an eye-opener to the fact that states have different rules about what a brewery can do with their beer. 

Georgia looks even more backwards if you really drill down, though. Using the Brewer's Association handy rules tool, I compiled a list of each state and their on- and off-premise rules. I then sorted each state into four categories.

Dark green states allow on- or off-premise consumption without any real limit. Sure, some say you can't walk away with more than 15.5 gallons, but... we're talking about a single person, heading to a brewery that doesn't have a brewpub, wondering if they can walk away with beer. 15.5 gallons is probably enough. 

Light green states have some sort of limit that is a little more difficult to navigate. New Jersey allows on-site consumption with a tour, for example. In Indiana, you have to have food, which means you basically have to be a brewpub. Alaska is amazing -- you are allowed to leave with five gallons, and drink 36 ounces there, but the place has to close at eight pm and there can't be any dancing or darts. 

Light red means that only on or off premise sales are allowed. In Montana, you can buy beer to leave, but you can only have samples there. Minnesota has a 500 barrel limit on off-premise sales without being a brewpub. Connecticut allows unlimited samples, and 8 liters of take home beer. You get the picture.

Dark red? Those states only allow samples at the brewery, and no sales for off-premise consumption. Welcome to the dark ages, Nevada, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The rest of us are enjoying our brewery beer, and we invite you to lobby your (corrupt?) lawmakers to change the laws to make your beer easier to buy. 

Apologies if any state is incorrect, legal speak is not my forte. Tennessee has some rule about high alcohol beers that makes it unclear if you can get a stronger beer at the tap room or not, so there was some guesswork here.