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The craft brewers’ legislative agenda

Same as it was last time.

Now that the 85th Texas Legislature is in session, lobbyists for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the organization that advances the interests of the state’s craft brewers, are going to push for more. Namely, they want production breweries to be able to sell beer to-go from their taprooms.

“Having off-premise sales in breweries is our No. 1 priority,” Charles Vallhonrat, the director of the guild, said.

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild had hoped to make that bill law in 2015, but that didn’t happen. As a result, the Dallas-based Deep Ellum Brewing sued the state in fall 2015 — a lawsuit that has yet to be resolved.

Currently, Texas law permits brewpubs, but not production breweries, to sell beer in bottles, cans and growlers to-go from their facility. Brewpubs can also offer beers from other breweries on-site, but they are limited in the amount of beer they can produce each year: no more than 10,000 barrels.

The inability to make off-premise sales is something brewery owners believe is unfair, and as a result, some breweries have made the switch to a brewpub license, including Austin’s own Jester King in 2013, Adelbert’s last year and, now, Blue Owl Brewing, which recently started offering cans and growlers to-go.)

[…]

“We’ve been speaking with the distributor lobbies,” Vallhonrat said. “There’s certainly opposition to it, but we’re working through it. We’re also closely watching the Deep Ellum lawsuit. But we will bring a bill about off-premise sales to the Legislature.”

Distributors, he said, are opposed to the idea because allowing consumers to buy beer to take home directly from the breweries could, theoretically, take away some of their business. That’s not how the guild sees it, however.

“We don’t see it as an alternative to retail sales,” Vallhonrat said. “People aren’t going to start buying their beer at the brewery all the time. They’ll go for special occasions, when there’s a big release or they have friends in town. Off-premise sales can drive beer tourism. It’s a great way to promote Texas beer.”

See here for some background, and here for more on the Deep Ellum lawsuit. Microbreweries won the right to sell their beer to visitors in 2013, but only for on-premises consumption. It’s still not legal to pick up a six pack to go after taking a tour at whatever microbrewery you happen to be visiting. They tried again in 2015 but got nowhere, and much as it pains me to say I’d bet against them this time as well. The argument that allowing this would negatively affect the distributors in any meaningful way is ludicrous – who would ever choose to drive to a microbrewery to buy a case as opposed to picking one up at a retail location? It makes no sense, but that’s what they’re going with, and it’s always easier on issues like this to play defense, since running out the clock is all you need to do. I don’t know if any specific bills have been filed for this yet, so check with the Craft Brewers Guild for further information and any action items to take up.

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4 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    It’s too bad we don’t get a governor like Trump who is willing to upend business as usual, especially to deal with crony capitalism, like our liquor distribution system.

    “Distributors, he said, are opposed to the idea because allowing consumers to buy beer to take home directly from the breweries could, theoretically, take away some of their business.”

    This is chutzpah right here. Those distributors feel they are anointed by God to have the exclusive right to move beer from the brewer to the point of sale.

    Brewers and distillers of all sizes ought to have the right to sell their merchandise any way they want to. These laws are comparable to making it illegal for a watermelon grower to sell his watermelons on the side of the road next to his field.

  2. brad moore says:

    “Trump deal with crony capitalism”….another good joke Bill. Thanks for the laugh.

  3. Ross says:

    The distributors are poster children for rent seeking. Time to reel them in.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    @Brad:

    I’ll be here all week! Try the veal.

    Seriously, though, this corrupt system has remained through both Pub and Dem controlled administrations. Only an outsider willing to upset the apple cart can fix this, and that outsider definitely isn’t Abbott, or Joe Strauss.

    @Ross:

    Exactly.