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Monday, June 23, 2014 - 11:58am

Georgia Secretary Of State: People Have To Vote If They Want Micro-Brewery Regulations Relaxed

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp says he is seeing the growth of Georgia's craft beer industry first-hand.

Kemp, whose office oversees new corporate registrations in the state, toured the 1-year-old Macon Beer Company's operations in a downtown converted warehouse Monday.

"I think you've seen it, you know, in breweries like Sweetwater [in Atlanta] and Terapin [in Athens], where they're fixtures in their communities now. I have no doubt that these guys will do the same thing in Macon," he said.

Kemp, a Republican, is among the statewide elected officials in Georgia running for reelection this year.

Macon Beer Company's two owner-operators, Cory Smith and Jeremy Knowles, told Kemp that micro-brewers feel stifled by regulations on their industry in Georgia.

"Obviously the guys are a little frustrated," Kemp said.

Last year, a Republican-led study committee of state legislators rejected a regulatory tweak that craft brewers have been asking for — they want to be able to sell packaged beer directly to consumers at their breweries, rather than going through third-party distributors and retailers as mandated by state law.

Responding to a question about that process, Kemp said: "I think people have to vote at the ballot box about how they want government regulations to be."

Kemp added his office has no control over alcohol regulations.

He did, however, taste Macon Beer Company's flagship brew — a pale ale called Macon Progress.

"It was great," he said. "I thought it was mild and not too strong, and it's kind of neat to have a Macon-based beer."

Smith, co-founder of Macon Beer Company, said he was honored to have Kemp down from Atlanta for the visit.

"He's a small business owner also and it was refreshing to hear that he has endured some of the same challenges that we face," Smight said. "It's awesome that he took the time to come speak with us about our business and I think that demonstrates his sincerity in his promise to work for small business in Georgia."

"He got to try a bit of our new beer that comes out next month and said he enjoyed it," Smith added. "That was a pretty proud moment for us."