Friday, September 07, 2007

Georgia laws squeeze out independent breweries

Honestly, this article has very little to do with this blog's themes of religion and justice, at least not at first glance. I suppose I could fudge it by saying that "beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," as Ben Franklin said. But I'll admit that this is more for personal interest.

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

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

New rules governing brewery tours could reduce that number to zero, says Fred Bensch, owner of Sweetwater Brewing ( 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."

Nonetheless, we might want to think about how the legislation came about. Could it be pressure from major brewers or distributors? Is this a continuation of a Prohibition-era mindset? Hard for me to say without knowing more. Nonetheless, major American beers like Budweiser and Coors are, frankly, little better than plain water. I would ask you to pray for small brewers just on principle.

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