July 2018 — In September 2017, Senate Bill 85 went into effect, finally allowing Georgia breweries to sell beer directly to consumers in taprooms. In addition, the bill did away with mandatory tours and allowed the sale of beer to-go and food on-premise. Thanks to the new laws, SweetWater Brewing recently announced plans to turn its taproom on Ottley Drive into a restaurant and bar. But SweetWater isn’t the only brewery excited about the bill. Another wave of craft breweries has opened across the region to take advantage of the new law’s economic impact.
In 2011, the entire state of Georgia counted only 21 craft breweries. Today, that number has more than doubled, reaching more than 53 statewide. And it continues to grow, with numerous breweries slated to open in 2018. In 2016, the annual economic impact of beer for Georgia was estimated to be $8.5 billion, more than $1.6 billion of which was generated by craft beer. On a national level, breweries contributed about $68 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Brewers Association.
Craft breweries might be small, but they clearly pack a large economic punch, especially in terms of injecting new energy and attracting business to struggling industrial districts. Breweries help to activate foot traffic, stimulate nightlife and spur economic development in their vicinity. In recognition of their impact, December’s sweeping tax reform included a provision that lowered the tax rate on beer produced in the U.S., particularly for small breweries.
In September 2017, Monday Night Brewing (MNB) opened its second facility, the Garage, along a recently completed section of the Atlanta BeltLine in the West End. This is a shining example of how craft breweries help to revitalize abandoned industrial properties and breathe new life into older communities. The Garage’s success has also helped to highlight the economic power of the BeltLine, as a once underinvested area of Atlanta is now seeing renewed investment interest from both home and abroad.
Jeff Heck, CEO of MNB, told Atlanta magazine back in March 2017, “A lot of what makes [craft] beer special is the community aspect, and the neighborhood has such a welcoming character that we feel we could grow with it and be part of an emerging area.”
Following in MNB’s footsteps, New Realm Brewing opened along the BeltLine in early 2018, including a farm-to-table restaurant, rooftop patio and beer garden.
There’s no question Atlanta’s brewery game is strong and getting stronger. Since SB 85 went into effect in September, 13 new breweries have opened statewide, creating 250 jobs and generating more than $30 million in direct investment. Dozens of craft beverage facilities are in the works in the Atlanta Metro area, including Halfway Crooks Brewing and Blending, which is under construction in the Summerhill neighborhood of Downtown, and North Fulton’s first distillery, planned for historic downtown Roswell.
Atlanta is quickly solidifying its place as a southern mecca for craft beer, bringing positive growth and development to the region in the process. The beer aficionados at Focus: Atlanta think this is great news!