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Craft distilling

We’re all familiar with the craft brewing industry in Texas, but did you know there is also a growing number of craft distillers in the Lone Star State? Whether you knew that or not, you will probably not be surprised to learn that they too have been held back by archaic alcohol laws, but like their brothers and sisters in the beermaking world, things are looking up for them now.

Yellow Rose Distilling

Twenty years after the rebirth of the craft-beer movement, and 30 years after boutique wineries found a foothold in America, spirits including scotch and bourbon are finally getting the small-batch treatment, with local distilleries redefining made-in-Texas spirits.

Distilleries of any kind were banned in Texas until 1997, when Tito Beveridge of Tito’s Vodka fought for legislation to legalize the industry once again. Now there are 43 distilleries with active permits in the state (though not all licensees are actively producing spirits), enough to place Texas at ninth in the nation with plenty of room to grow. California, the nation’s leader in distilleries, has about 250 independent producers operating.

Most of those Texas distilleries make spirits that don’t require aging, such as vodka or rum, but in the past five years a fledgling movement toward craft whiskeys has flourished across the state, with new brands that are already getting international attention.

[…]

Unlike wineries, distilleries in Texas are currently barred from offering tastings of their spirits on site or from selling directly to the consumer from the distillery. That’s set to change if Texas Senate Bill 905, which passed the state Senate in March and the House earlier this month, is signed by Gov. Rick Perry.

“Allowing distilleries to have on-premise and off-premise sales will bring visitors to the distilleries, which will hopefully increase sales and bring attention to Texas products,” notes the staff of state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, one of the bill’s authors.

Other bills designed to help Texas distilleries compete with out-of-state brands are under review by the Texas House of Representatives, including SB 828, which allows in-state distilleries to designate an official agent to conduct product samplings and take orders from wholesalers, as out-of-state distilleries do, and S.B. 652, which will allow Texas distilleries (as well as wineries and breweries) to buy and sell their products to other licensed distilleries.

Here are SB905 and SB828, which has also passed the House by now. SB652 is on the House calendar for today, as are the craft beer bills for which we’ve all been patiently waiting. I can only presume the reason why the distillers got their legislation through with no apparent fuss is that there isn’t an established industry of large distillers and liquor distributors to oppose them.

Anyway. The Press had a cover story on Texas’ craft distillers back in 2011 that’s worth your time to read. Yellow Rose was the first to open in the Houston area last year, and the craft distillery legislation that currently awaits Rick Perry’s signature would directly affect them:

Assuming SB 905 is signed and takes effect, Yellow Rose will move its microdistillery to central Houston near North Post Oak and Katy Freeway, seizing the opportunity to use tours as a marketing and sales tool.

As it is currently located north of Tomball, that would most likely mean it will become an actual Houston business instead of merely a “Houston-area” business once SB905 is law. I hope one of the city’s lobbyists has expressed support for this bill to Perry.

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4 Comments

  1. Wade says:

    Your article states “distilleries in Texas are currently barred from offering tastings of their spirits on site”. This is not true. That law that allowed small samples on site was changed about 4 years ago. I’ve visited many of the craft distillers since then and do they provide samples on their site.

  2. Wade – Just to be clear, that’s the Houston Chronicle story I’ve quoted from that says that. I have no personal experience in the matter. Check the link for SB905 to see if you are talking about the same thing that it addresses.

  3. YR says:

    Wade is correct, under the existing law distilleries are allowed to offer samples. However, what is new in the law is that distilleries can charge for samples. More importantly (because samples should always be free!) is the ability to sell entire bottles right to the consumer from the distillery.

  4. […] here for the background. You know that I approve of this, and would ideally like to see more done on all […]

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