Reformation Brewery Provides Forum for Community in Woodstock

By AUSTIN MCMILLAN

WOODSTOCK, Ga. – From taco trucks to bingeing books there are many ways to build a community at Reformation Brewery.

“There is always room for community,” said Merry Quarles, the keeping room manager at the Woodstock Brewery.

With recent changes in law, breweries are quickly beginning to change how they operate. New Georgia law allows for breweries to sell beer directly to customers from the brewery rather than having to give out free samples after a tour.

Reformation Brewery has taken advantage of the law and is now opening its doors to events that are safe for the whole family. Reformation is also focused on getting people in a community with one another and away from their cell phones.

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Customers gather at around tables with board games and beer during Reformation Brewery’s monthly board game night. Photo by Austin McMillan

Most community events are free to the public, and with the new laws, you can now pay for what you would like rather than a base rate for a tour.

“It’s a very laid-back place that you can bring your kids,” said Kim Kendrick, a Reformation customer. “My son can come and play.”

Once a month, Reformation Brewery hosts a book club known as Books and Brews. Community members are encouraged to come in and talk about the monthly book over a beer if they choose.

“The only thing they have in common is they like to read, and they have all connected because of that,” said Quarles.

For those not interested in reading, Reformation also hosts board game nights. On the first Tuesday of the month Reformation bring in game creators and companies to host board games nights. Panda Cult Games was the latest host and came with a few sets of their latest game The Cult of Barnacle Bay. Along with getting to meet with game developers, customers have the chance to win a free game with the monthly board game giveaway.

Reformation also hosts a taco and trivia night on Wednesdays. Quarles said the event was originally meant for teachers to come and have a free beer but eventually turned into any public service worker. Quarles said that they have created a community amongst themselves that meet on a weekly basis.

Along with opening their doors, Reformation also opens their wallets to the Woodstock community. Reformation gives to many different nonprofits in the Woodstock area through its Reformation Stands program.

“A lot of what we do for our nonprofits is raise awareness,” Quarles said. Reformation sponsors organizations like the Upper Cherokee Riverkeepers Alliance, who help to maintain clean water, and the Greenprints Trail System, who help maintain all the trails in the area.

Not only is giving to these nonprofits benefiting the community, but it also helps Reformation to create a better product. Quarles said sponsoring the Upper Cherokee Riverkeepers Alliance, in turn, provides fresher water for Reformation to brew with.

For anyone looking to find a community in the Woodstock area, Reformation has many different options for people to get involved.

Quarles said,  “You make them not only feel like, but you make them part of a community,”

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When beer changed in Georgia

By ZACH THOMAS

Georgia is a tough market for craft breweries. A three-tier distribution law is used, which means that breweries have to sell to distributors, who sell to retailers where the customers can buy their favorite cold ones.

This made it hard for breweries to start up in Georgia because in order to make sales, a brewery must get their beer sold in retailers, which is not an easy task for a new brewery. All of that changed however when Senate bill 85 was passed into law.

The law allows breweries to sell their beer on-site to customers in a capped quantity of 3 million ounces, which equates to about one case per person per day. It also allows the breweries to have restaurants on-site as well.

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Here, Matt Krengl is giving a tour of Red Hare Brewery. Before the new law passed, breweries were legally required to give tours and were very limited on how much beer that they could let customers sample. Photo by Brianna Reid

This law has been a long time coming. Because of Georgia’s three-tier system, distributors in Georgia make a lot of money due to the laws protecting their position. With that status being threatened, their push back through lobbying played a heavy role in keeping Georgia behind other states when it comes to brewery laws.

“Getting anything is a plus,” Jekyll Brewing brew master and co-owner Josh Rachel said. “In some states breweries can sell kegs on site, but we are lucky to get what we got.”

Public opinion is that the fight between the lobbyists and the breweries is an all-out brawl between the two parties. However, that isn’t necessarily so.

“The vote to pass Senate bill 85 was unanimous,” Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association Assistant Director Martin Smith said. “It actually has been a very collaborative effort between both parties. Every lobbyist was outspokenly for this bill. The reason it took so long is because we didn’t want to pass a law that wasn’t perfect or created problems. Good legislation takes time.”

The law had to work for both the breweries and distributors alike. Breweries get to sell direct, but the cap protects the distributers, which is a good thing. Distributers aren’t the enemy of craft breweries. In fact, they are actually good for them.

“The distributors actually help us a lot,” Rachel said. “They helped us get here, and I have relied on them for support. I don’t have a fleet of trucks to distribute with, so it actually helps us get our product out there.”

The desire to sell direct to consumer however is not completely diminished. The ability to sell direct gives breweries more business opportunities to pursue that they wouldn’t have if they couldn’t sell direct.

“Being able to serve on-site creates another revenue stream,” he said. “It’s the ability to expand our portfolio in house and offer a larger variety of beers in smaller quantities that you can only buy on-site.”

This bill is good for the industry on both sides of brewing and distributing. The patrons of these breweries also benefit because brewers now have more ways to amplify their experience.

“It’s good for the whole industry,” Smith said. “It allows the brewers to grow and provide a better experience for their customers, and if the breweries grow then the distributors benefit too. They are all partners to make sure the industry thrives.”

It’s hard to say what will come next for this journey of the beer industry in Georgia, but this law was very much a step in the right direction for both parties involved.