The Statesman returns to our favorite subject.
The small brewers, generally a young and passionate group, always have been better at creating hoppy and original brews than navigating the Legislature and the network of big-money lobbyists who are experts at quietly influencing politicians. The lack of political savvy among craft brewers has hampered their efforts to make Texas more friendly to craft beers, as Oregon, California and Colorado are.
“Part of our frustration in the past is we have seemingly been fighting against invisible enemies,” [Freetail Brewing CEO Scott] Metzger said. “We never really felt like we got our fair shot.”
They will try again during the next legislative session, which begins in January. But this time, they have a new tactic: befriend the two powerful wholesale beer distributor lobby groups that opposed their measures in the past: the Beer Alliance of Texas and the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas.
“We’re trying to build consensus with the stakeholders who have been in opposition in the past,” said Metzger, founder and CEO of Freetail Brewing Co. in San Antonio and an economics professor at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
The lobby groups have said recently that they appreciate craft brewers and support them. Still, they have been reluctant to back the small brewers for fear that fracturing the three-tier system could threaten their ability to make money.
Craft brewers selling at breweries might take a small piece of distributors’ business, but if larger beer makers somehow exploit exemptions to the three-tier system to self-distribute, then distributors could find themselves losing money.
Rick Donley, president of the Beer Alliance, said his organization is in the middle of “delicate negotiations” with the craft brewers and that his group might be on board next time. “We’re not closing the door,” he said. Still, he has concerns. He said he fears federal court challenges if the three-tier law is changed too much. He wasn’t specific, but he said a federal case could open floodgate for legal issues that could hurt his clients.
Keith Strama, a general counsel for the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, said his organization sees “craft brewers as a strong ally to promote the industry in the state” and gladly will work with them. But, he said, “we’re reluctant to support proposals that further deregulate the system.”
Yes, God forbid we should ever have a free market for beer in Texas. It’s a good thing for the distributors that they have clout in Austin, because if this were ever put to a vote of the people, they’d get creamed. See here for more.