Hey There SweetWater Brewing, Whatcha Doing?

In Beer News by Ryan

We stumbled across something really, really interesting the other day while combing through the weekly rundown of new and renewed liquor licenses put out by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission because nerds: a Non-Resident Dealer’s License issued to SweetWater Brewing out of Atlanta, Georgia.sweetwater

SweetWater is the largest craft brewer in Georgia and ranks 24th and 33rd respectively on the Brewers Association’s list of the Top 50 Craft Breweries and Top 50 Breweries of 2012, based on sales. Last year they churned out nearly 150-thousand barrels of beer, a 32-percent increase from the previous year, on the heels of a 19-million dollar expansion.

The license was issued days after the brewery sent out a press release touting its planned expansion into new markets. “Looking into 2014, forecasts show SweetWater’s beer set to flow into Virginia in the first quarter before moving on to Mississippi, Ohio and Texas later in the year, totaling 12 states for the Atlanta-based brewery by year-end,” the release states.

There’s no mention of Illinois, though.

So we reached out to SweetWater to see what’s up — and we didn’t hear back. We followed up with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission to see if they could provide further documentation — nothing. We even poked a wholesaler bear or two and came up empty.

So for now, we have this:

sweetwater1And what does this mean? Well, this license would be the first step a brewer outside of Illinois would take to enter the market.

According to the liquor control commission a non-resident dealer’s license allows for: “the shipment and warehousing of alcoholic liquor in this State from any point outside of this State, and to sell such alcoholic liquor to Illinois-licensed distributors and to no one else in this State; provided the non-resident dealer registers with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission each and every brand of alcoholic liquor it proposes to sell to Illinois licensees during the license period.”

So SweetWater can now legally send its beer to Illinois for distribution, the next step would be signing on with a wholesaler to distribute it. Perhaps that is a conversation for a later date? I guess for now we know they can enter the Illinois market but not that they will.

We’re not going to lie, having Festive Ale on store shelves around the holidays wouldn’t be so bad. Nor would having their 420 Extra Pale Ale (in cans, no less) around during the summer — or anytime for that matter. I suppose we’ll just have to bide our time until we hear from someone at the brewery or we see the announcement trickle out months down the road. And if the latter happens, remember you read it here first.

(Editor’s Note: Two days after reaching out to a spokesperson at SweetWater Brewing and hours after this posted we received a response: “The license you’re referencing below was filed as a compliance for us to be able to ship our product to a Beer of the Month Club in the area, not for plans on entering the market.” However, between the ongoing Sweetwater expansion and the new connections in Chicago distribution — The Hand Family, who is buying Illinois distributor City Beverage, also owns four wholesalers in Tennessee that currently distribute SweetWater’s beers  — we are still within the boundaries of dreaming about Festive Ale in Chicago.)

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Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.