As of September 1, visitors to Athens breweries can expect a few exciting advancements during their next tour.
Senate Bill 85, signed into law in early May by Governor Nathan Deal, brings with it some new rules and regulations. The law allows breweries and distilleries to sell directly to consumers for the first time. Prior to the change, Georgia was one of only three states that did not allow direct sales, which made a brewery tour in Georgia a bit different than other destinations.
Now you savvy brewery-goers might be saying wait, I've sampled beer at Creature Comforts, Southern Brewing, and Terrapin before. The new laws, however, now allow the visitor to customize their brewery visit. Breweries have eliminated the previously-required "tour" ($10-15 for a glass and the ability to sample up to 36 ounces of beer after an inside-look at the brewery), so patrons are no longer limited to a predetermined experience. Visitors can still come in and sample a plethora of local creations, but they can also just stop by for a pint on their way to dinner. The new laws allow customers to feel less rushed during their visit, as well as purchase directly from the manufacturer with no hoops to jump through. Given the growing popularity of Athens beers, they've become scarce, so the ability to take home your favorites is certainly a welcome addition for beer afficionados!
The bottom line? The next time you visit one of Athens' celebrated breweries, you can sample and buy your favorite brew on-site, eliminating a trip down the street to the nearest package or grocery store.
In anticipation of the changes, we checked in with the breweries around town to see what changes visitors can expect now that the bill has gone into effect.
Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
It is first worth noting the role that Creature Comforts played in getting this bill passed: CEO Chris Herron is the Vice President of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild and was instrumental in aligning Georgia brewery laws with those of the rest of the country.
When asked about his thoughts on the bill, Herron stated that the changes are all going to make the brewery experience more convenient for visitors. While the traditional "tour" will be eliminated, Creature Comforts is making few changes to their downtown Athens space. Just like before, visitors will enter the merchandise shop. However, now they will not have to pay prior to touring the brewery or even take a tour before heading straight to the bar. Tours will still occur every hour on the hour. No alcohol is included on the tour, but patrons can purchase a variety of sizes of their favorite beer -- ranging from a four-ounce sampler to a full pint -- at the bar in the tap room. The whole premise of the bill, according to Herron, is to allow visitors to have more control over their experience and shape it to their preferences. Whether that is just coming in to buy a 6-pack of Athena or taking a tour and drinking a couple pints of Bibo, the new law is consumer-friendly and allows more opportunities for customers to sample the beers they want.
While there are no immediate changes to brewery hours at Creature Comforts, visitors may see extended merchandise store hours, which will also sell canned offerings, in the near future. Creature Comforts is currently constructing a second, larger Athens facility in early 2018, so keep up with all things Creature Comforts, including their limited releases and any upcoming events, to stay in the know!
Terrapin, as Athens' first brewery, paved the way for other breweries in our city and has been a long-term leader on the state level to modernize Georgia's beer industry. Visitors to Terrapin can expect just a few minor tweaks during their next visit to the Newton Bridge brewery. Terrapin will still offer on-demand tours of the brewery for out of town guests or first-time visitors. For those with a hankering to sample some of Terrapin's renowned brews, the tap room will be open to all guests and furry friends and will serve beer by the pint starting at just $5 (21 and up to drink of course).
Since a tour will no longer be required to drink or purchase alcohol, Terrapin hopes the added convenience of coming and going at leisure, not to mention being able to buy fan-favorites and limited releases directly from the source, will be a big perk for visitors of the brewery. Another big change for the Athens staple is to their hours: the tap room will now be open from 1 PM to 9 PM Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 PM to 6 PM on Sundays. The law has no impact on Terrapin's upcoming Hop Harvest Festival, and the entire Terrapin team is hopeful that the new law will allow them to make use of their large outdoor space for more all-day live music events.
Between their new "neighborhood bar" opening in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium and their Taproom at Suntrust Park, both in Atlanta, Terrapin is making its presence felt throughout the Southeast. Keep up with Terrapin as they continue to help put Athens beer on the map!
Southern Brewing Co.
Much like Athens' other breweries, Southern Brewing Co. does not anticipate many immediate changes to their current set-up. Their tours will still be offered -- though now free of charge -- and patrons will be able to walk up the bar, open a tab, and drink at their leisure. While there are no current changes to their hours, Southern will be open during all UGA home games, regardless of start time, and they are exploring being open on Sundays if they can do so in compliance with Athens-Clarke County laws.
In other news, Southern Brewing Co. recently hit a major milestone, as cans of their fan favorites hit the shelves in August, 2017. Cans will be available directly for sale from the brewery, but patrons can now find Hobnail on the shelves of their favorite nearby stores.
Keep up with Southern moving forward as they continue to roll some of the signature beers onto shelves.
In addition to award-winning breweries, Athens also boasts a growing number of brew pubs and growler shops that are just as passionate about beer as the rest of the town.
Akademia Brewing Co.
A little ways down Atlanta Highway, situated next to Georgia Square Mall, is Athens's newest brew pub. Priding themselves on handcrafted furniture, food, and beer, Akademia is set to open later this fall. While the official beer list will not be revealed until opening day, CEO and founder Matt Casey did hint that they have been experimenting with everything from traditional Belgian beers to tart saisons in the past few weeks.
With a soft opening expected to occur later this fall, 2017, check out Akademia and keep up with announcements regarding their opening!
Copper Creek Brewing Co.
Still located at their Washington Street location, Copper Creek is entering their twelfth year as Athens' go-to downtown brew pub. In addition to their delicious food offerings, Copper Creek offers a plethora of home brews on tap and even fills growlers for beer fanatics on the go.
Copper Creek is known for their beer, but check them out to see their menu and special weekday events!
Five Points Growlers
Boasting over 45 taps and home brew classes at their Westside Location, 5 Points Growlers and Brew Supply is the perfect one-stop-shop for all beer fanatics. Five Points is certainly one of the best places to sample a few brews to find that piques your taste buds, and with weekly sales and fair prices, you'll be hard-pressed to find a reason not to keep coming back! A growler (or two) of local Athens beer is a great Athens souvenir to pick up on the way out of town.
Plan an Athens craft beer getaway to taste all of our fabulous Athens craft beers, or just stop in for a pint next time you are in town! While getting it fresh from the source is an unrivaled experience, many of our local dining options also boast many local brews on tap or by the can. Next time you catch a hankering for a refreshing Berlinger Weisse or a hoppy IPA, come check out Athens, one of the Southeast's up-and-coming brew hubs!