Craft Breweries Proving to Have Huge Economic Impact in Georgia

Impact of Beer in Georgia and US image

Craft breweries in Georgia, and in the Metro Atlanta Region specifically, have grown in popularity for many years now. For many residents, the hope is that Georgia will become a popular destination for beer connoisseurs, similar to other states, such as Colorado and California. House Bill 314 was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly, which would allow GA breweries to manufacture malt beverages on their premises for off-premises consumption. House Bill 314 did not pass the General Assembly in the last legislative session, but we hope to see this legislation pass in the future, as it would allow Georgia the traction it needs to transform surrounding Atlanta communities into craft brewery hubs.

Metro Atlanta Region communities are beginning to recognize the grass roots, community-based appeal breweries have and the passage of the legislation solidifies the attraction. Breweries have proven to have economic development advantages as well. According to studies, beer supports nearly 65,000 jobs in Georgia, placing it in the top states for beer industry jobs, and generates $8 billion nationally in direct economic impact to the U.S. beer industry. It sounds like a lot, but not when comparing this total to other states like Colorado and California which generate $14.8 billion and $34.2 billion, respectively. Another recent analysis, from the Beer Institute, demonstrates how one job inside a brewery supports another 45 jobs outside.

To see the a breakdown of the economic impact of the beer industry in Georgia, click HERE.

We sat down with Kevin Leff, an attorney at Council Member Sard & Leff, LLC, a law practice that focuses primarily on beverage and alcohol permitting and regulatory law. Sard and Leff’s clients are mainly manufacturers, importers, brokers, distributors and retailers of alcoholic beverages who are subject to regulation by federal, state and/or local governments. The practice also represents a number of commercial real estate developers, property managers, and property owners whose tenants and prospective tenants may be in the alcoholic beverage industry. Leff did us the service of defining exactly what a craft brewery is; “A ‘craft brewery’ is an industry term used to describe a small independent brewery which, as a general rule, tends to be very connected with its community.”

Decatur, which is now home to Three Taverns Brewery, Blue Tarp Brewery, and Wine Workshop and Brew Center, is quickly becoming a popular location for these communities. When asked why, Leff points out that “the City of Decatur and its City Council have been extremely welcoming to alcohol manufacturers, retailers, and restaurateurs alike.”

Additionally, the Development Authority of Cobb County recently agreed to give Red Hare Brewing Co., a Marietta based brewery, a $40,000 retention grant. The goal of the grant is to keep companies in Cobb County. The grant will help with a $2.8 million expansion the brewery is hoping to undertake in the near future. In addition to the economic advantage craft breweries provide, there is also an environmental conscience approach. Red Hare Brewing Co. has partnered with Novelis Inc., the world’s largest recycler of aluminum, to produce a certified high-recycled aluminum sheet, which guarantees minimum 90% recycled content. Recycling aluminum requires 95 percent less energy, and produces 95 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Leff adds that while economic development is outside the scope of Sard & Leff’s expertise, there “clearly is an economic development connection- job creation, increased tax collection, and creation of community based businesses.” The Red Hare expansion will reportedly provide 20 full time jobs as well as a tourist attraction for the city of Marietta.

When asked if there have been any breweries that have been trailblazers for brewers in Atlanta, Leff replied, “While there have been other pioneers, no Georgia brewery appears to have spurred the growth of Georgia craft breweries more than Sweetwater. Theirs is a local and now regional success story and has become a model for building successful breweries.” Sweetwater officially started brewing in 1997, and has become a staple for Georgia beer lovers.

Craft breweries give rise to diversity by sponsoring High Gravity Hip Hop Beer Fest, the first craft beer festival focused on promotion in this city directed towards a broader demographic. Getting the largest majority of our city into craft beer would be a financial windfall to the Georgia market. Events like the Great Atlanta Beer Fest, held on September 6th, can only help influence atypical craft beer enthusiasts by providing an outstanding atmosphere for what will soon be the biggest beer event in all of Atlanta.