Craft beer is truly on the rise. The Brewer's Association recently released new figures showing the first six months of 2013 American craft beer sales in volume, and dollars are up 13 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
By March of this year, the brewery count hit an all-time high since the 1880s. There are now more than 2,300 craft breweries in the nation.
The demand for craft beer has never been higher, and more and more breweries are popping up everywhere. Georgia is no exception to this.
The Georgia Craft Brewer's Guild is an organization hosting 22 brewpubs, contract breweries and production breweries.
There are six additional breweries in planning that are already members of the guild. Almost certainly, there are more breweries in planning that aren't yet members of the guild.GEORGIA BECOMING A "BEER STATE"?
Southeastern Georgia will soon become known for many of its brews.
Currently, the bulk of Georgia's brewing industry is in northern Georgia - the longstanding exception being Moon River, Savannah's brewpub, which has been operating downtown for more than 14 years.
2013 will be a big year for the southeast in terms of beer. Southbound Brewing Co., the only current production facility, is distributing throughout the region.
Coastal Empire, the local contract brewery, now brewing beer in Alabama, will within the year have its first physical location here in Savannah.
They will be located on the west side in the former Pepsi bottling plant.
The Haborak brothers hope to move into their new brewing facility within the next few months.
Service Brewing Company will also be opening up on the west side of the city in the old Coastal Paper Company building. Founder Kevin Ryan is working with the city to change the zoning ordinance to allow for microbreweries.
He is also working with the historic review board to alter part of the exterior of his building. They, too, hope to be producing beer by the end of 2013.
Two other brewing companies have popped up in Statesboro. Van Gogh's celebrated its official grand opening early this month.
This gourmet pizza spot brews its own beers and is Statesboro's first fully functioning brewing facility. Eagle Creek Brewing Company is also newly located in Statesboro. They recently began contract brewing their beer through Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co., based in Kiln, Miss.
They began distributing and selling their first brews early this month. They are currently building out a brewing facility that will have a physical location to brew on site in downtown Statesboro within the year.
Macon will also have its first brewing company opening this year, Macon Brewing Company.
It's fantastic to know locally and regionally brewed beer will soon be flowing all over southeast Georgia.
So what does this really mean for our neck of the woods? More than likely, there will be an increase in tourism.
There are about 200,000 individual visits to breweries in Georgia each year. There are about 30 brewery tours in Georgia each week. Those tours bring in about 3,800 people to participating breweries each week.
Statesboro and Macon have already given approval for tours and tastings at production facilities.
These cities will follow the state law, just as every other city and brewery in Georgia does.SAVANNAH TO DECIDE SOON TO FOLLOW SUIT
Southbound Brewing Co., Coastal Empire and newcomer Service Brewing have been working together to get this ordinance passed.LEND YOUR VOICE
Supporters of a change in city of Savannah ordinance dealing with brewery tours have started a petition at MoveOn.org. Sign it at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mayor-jackson-dont-restrict.
The official decision will be voted on during the city council meeting Aug. 22. Passing this ordinance will create more jobs, more tourism and overall local support for locally made products.
In 2012, Georgia brewers employed more than 700 people in breweries and brewpubs.
In addition to jobs and tourism, you can also expect to see these folks giving back to the community. It's no secret the craft beer industry is known for being very involved in giving back.
In Georgia, 100 percent of production breweries give to a nonprofits and also provide fundraising opportunities for charities.
Half of all the breweries in the state reported they regularly volunteer, as well. Georgia breweries donated almost $200,000 in 2012 alone.
There really doesn't seem to be a downside to having craft breweries around. So support your local brewer and give their product a try.
It's all tied together - drink local!
Smith Mathews (brewmaster) and Carly Wiggins (marketing director) are the founders of Southbound Brewing Company, Savannah's only production microbrewery. Go to southboundbrewingco.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.