PIedmont Brewery and Kitchen co-owner Trish Whitley (in profile) in foreground. Husband and co-owner, Brian Whitley (beard and blue shirt) in background.

PIedmont Brewery and Kitchen co-owner Trish Whitley (in profile) in foreground. Husband and co-owner, Brian Whitley (beard and blue shirt) in background.

Selling beer in Georgia isn’t easy. Brewers face a host of restrictions, but restaurants that make their own beer may have found a way around state law, with the help of local government ordinances. Feature on brewpubs, growlers and retail sales of beer.

First, you need to know the difference between a brewery and a brewpub. Both make beer, but state law caps the amount a brewpub can churn out. That’s because they’re supposed to primarily serve food and beverages.

Trish Whitley and her husband Brian are part of the team trying to put the finishing touches on the Piedmont Brewery and Kitchen. It’s opening in a long-vacant storefront in downtown Macon.

“We’ll have a full service restaurant but we will also brew beer on site,” said Trish Whitley. “The brewery will be downstairs in an American urban arcade.”

Brewpubs have begun to change the way it serves the public in recent weeks. While Georgia breweries can’t sell beer directly to consumers and need a distributor to do so, brewpub owners believe that restriction shouldn't apply to them. They want to sell pints on the premises and half-gallon jugs - known as "growlers" - to take home.

Nanci Palmer , executive director for the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, said those owners sought a ruling from the state in March on whether the same restrictions to breweries applied to brewpubs.

“They got confirmation from the Department of Revenue that the state really did not care whether or not the brewpubs could sell growlers,” said Palmer.

Palmer said the state also confirmed that the sale of growlers by brewpubs would be a local issue. And suddenly there was flurry of local ordinances beginning with Alpharetta and Savannah.

“We've seen a similar movement in Forsyth County, unincorporated parts of Cobb County,” said Palmer. “Decatur is considering it, the city of Atlanta is considering it.”

Macon-Bibb Commissioners are in the midst of weighing a similar ordinance. A committee unanimously approved a brewpub license with the growler permission last month. The full commission will pass judgment this week (Tuesday, June 7).

So, why are local governments eager to jump on this bandwagon? 

“In communities like Asheville, North Carolina (and) in Charleston, South Carolina you've seen places where the brewpubs themselves have become a part of the overall economic development and tourism package of a community,” said Alex Morrison, executive director for the Macon Urban Development Authority. 

“What we're finding is that there's such a large community of craft brewers who do like beer tourism that they actually seek out new places to have new to market craft brews,” Morrison added. “And so you see tourism and out-of-town spending increase.”

Morrison said Macon wants to use its code of ordinances to show that area supports small business, like Trish Whitley's Piedmont Brewery and Kitchen

“As one city get something passed and … is successful, it's good for all of them,” said Whitley. “One city looks at another and, you know, it helps the whole business.”

Meanwhile, craft brewers are keeping up their push for the same retail privileges as brewpubs, to sell their products directly to consumers.

Tags: Brewpubs  Beer  Breweries  Georgia  Macon