By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
By the Bottle: Georgia law change allows distilleries to sell direct
Distillery law change pic
A law that went into effect Sept. 1 means distilleries in Georgia, like the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, can sell bottles of their product, as well as cocktails and samples, directly to customers without charging tour fees. - photo by Allie Dean

Late last week, Georgia shook off an antiquated law that was a remnant from the prohibition era, when bootleggers raced their cars through the north Georgia mountains to avoid the law, barrels of white lighting in tow.

At midnight on Sept. 1, Senate Bill 85 went into effect, changing the way distilleries and breweries can distribute their product to consumers.

The bill was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on May 8 and allows breweries and distilleries across Georgia to sell their product straight from the source, without relying solely on sales of wholesalers and distributors and without requiring visitors to pay for a tour first.

The law also contains no language barring breweries or distilleries from providing samples or selling cocktails.

SB 85 allows for sale of distilled spirits up to 500 barrels per year to individuals for on-site and off-site consumption. Each barrel of spirits is the equivalent of 53 gallons.

Sales for consumption off the premises cannot exceed 2,250 milliliters per customer per day.

The bill also allows for the sale of beer up to 3,000 barrels per year for both on-site and off-site consumption, with each barrel being the equivalent of 31 gallons.

Sales for consumption off the premises for beer cannot exceed 288 ounces per customer per day.

The law also left it up to counties and municipalities to permit brewpubs to sell wine or beer to go, which was previously not authorized by the state.

Dawsonville’s own moonshine distillery is seeing the effects of the law change from where it sits in the city hall complex, in a space next to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

The Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery is owned by Cheryl Wood, a ninth generation moonshiner. Wood has long spoken out about restrictive distillery laws, which she said weren’t relevant to a 21st century moonshiner.

Georgia is the last of the 50 states to allow direct sales at distilleries and breweries.

Wood said in May that now thanks to the new legislation, the one business will become two: she will continue to operate tours, but will also be able to sell more moonshine than the distillery could probably produce.

"This will bring more revenue for everybody," Wood said. "Already it brings people in who are not from Dawsonville, and they always ask about places to eat and things to do. Tourists are the best kind of customers, they come in and spend a day or a weekend, spend money, and leave."

This year is also a big one for Dawsonville's history with the 50th anniversary of the Mountain Moonshine Festival in October. This year will be the first that attendees can buy a bottle (or a few) of moonshine, legally, from the distillery downtown.