Georgia breweries dry up

Local laws that limit beer tastings hurt independents.

By Mina Kimes, FSB Contributor

(FSB Magazine) -- Colorado boasts 44 independent breweries.

Georgia, with twice the population, has only three, down from eight a decade ago.

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New rules governing brewery tours could reduce that number to zero, says Fred Bensch, owner of Sweetwater Brewing (sweetwaterbrew.com) in Atlanta, by driving away thirsty crowds and eliminating the brewers' best marketing tool.

"This would totally cripple us," he says. The dispute has been fermenting since May, when the Georgia Department of Revenue proposed limiting tastings to two ounces per brew. Under pressure, the revenuers raised the limit to 24 ounces, but with stipulations: Breweries can't serve samples until tours are over, they can't pour any beer if they charge admission (Sweetwater charges $8), and Sunday tastings are verboten.

DOR spokesman Charles Willey says the rules are for "public safety."

Bensch, who has operated Sweetwater since 1997, says it's part of a pattern of regulatory harassment. "Five breweries have gone out of business since we've started," he says. "This is an inhospitable place to brew beer."  Top of page

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