Fruitland Augusta praising state lawmakers for brewery/distillery bill

AUGUSTA (WJBF) — An Augusta-based vodka producer is praising Georgia lawmakers for passing the craft brewery and distillery bill.

The law will allow breweries and distilleries to sell a limited amount of alcohol directly to customers, instead of to wholesalers who then sell to stores.

Senate Bill 85 passed both the Senate and the House and is sitting on the Governor’s desk, ready to be signed.

For Fruitland Augusta, it’s a step in the right direction to get a distillery opened.

“We have Georgia Peach Vodka and Georgia Peach Tea Vodka, both made with real Georgia peaches and they’re only sold here in Georgia,” Fruitland Augusta Founder Yuri Kato said.

Kato launched Fruitland Augusta three years ago and so far, her vodka has been a major success across the Peach State.

She named her business after the Garden City because of the property now called Augusta National Golf Club.

“Before it was the very famous golf course, it was the largest peach farm and it was called Fruitland. It was owned by P.J. Berckmans who became known as the father of Georgia peaches,” she said.

Even though Augusta’s in the name, Fruitland Vodka isn’t made here. It’s actually produced in Florida.

Kato is hoping to change that soon though as she’s trying to bring her business to downtown Augusta.

“Our idea is to have a small distillery. We don’t need a lot of space just to produce two products at the moment, but we’d also like to see a great exhibit of Mr. Berckman’s life because this is about Augusta” she said.

And now that the craft brewery bill has passed, Kato will be able to sell her vodka directly to the people who show up at her distillery.

“That’s huge. Georgia hasn’t been the friendliest state for us, alcohol producers, but I think we’re heading in the right direction” she said.

There will be limits on how much vodka you can buy, but still, it’s a win for Fruitland Augusta.

If the Governor signs the bill into law, which it looks like he will, breweries and distilleries will be able to sell their products to customers starting September 1st.

Meanwhile, Augusta Planning and Development will be making a recommendation to commissioners soon to allow micro-breweries and distilleries in downtown Augusta.

It’s a move that Riverwatch Brewery is not in favor of, as the company was forced to open in an industrial zone about two years ago.

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