Legislature Approves Stronger Beer

Would you like to try stronger beer? There's a potential change in the making. Right now, when you have a beer in Georgia, it can only be six percent alcohol, which eliminates a lot of imported brews. Yesterday, Georgia senators passed a bill allowing stronger beer, up to 14 percent alcohol.

Supporters say it'll boost tourism. Opponents are worried about safety.

Beer drinker Mickey Leone of Savannah loves imported beer. He says if Georgia okays more potent brews, he's buying. As long as it tastes good. "If they get a beer from, say, Munich, they can't get here," he said. "They should be able to. It's a ridiculous law."

Bartenders and bar owners aren't sure a stronger beer will have much of an impact. After two years of bartending, Lyndsay Neilson of City Market's Sorry Charlie's says she knows one thing for sure: "Just a lot of people come to Savannah and get really drunk."

Critics say the law sets up some potentially dangerous scenarios. A patron orders a stronger beer to go, not realizing how strong it is. He grabs his keys and jumps in his car. Alcohol abuse recovery expert Frank Barker says the likelihood of DUIs increases, especially in the tourist demographic. "St. Patrick's Day is a large amateur's day, and those people could get into some risky situations," he said.

As for the tourism boost, not everyone's buying. "I doubt anybody decided not to come to Georgia because they can't get a certain beer," said Barker.

"I think people will still come, I don't think it will make a difference," said Lyndsay Neilson

If stronger beers are sold, Mickey Leone says he can make one safe prediction: "Less trips to the bathroom."

There are still some unknowns. If people are drinking less beer, but getting drunk quicker, some businesses are worried they could lose money. But, if the law passes, they'll be sure to stock up on stronger beer.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com