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Yellow Rose Distillery

Good times for craft distillers

Just as Texas’ craft brewing industry finally got legislation passed that will allow them to operate more freely, so too did Texas craft distillers.

Gov. Rick Perry on Monday declared September “Texas Craft Spirits Month” as the state begins to implement new laws that give distillers more freedom to produce and sell in the state.

“I think that the main benefit of this is making sure that we have got a solid framework for our distilled craft industry to grow,” state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who co-sponsored four new laws that affect Texas distillers, said during a Monday press conference.

Van de Putte said the new laws put Texas in line with other states that have more relaxed distilled spirits laws, paving the way for Texas to quickly gain national traction in the industry. Distilled spirits include alcoholic beverages such as vodka, gin, tequila and rum. In Texas, distilling is a growing industry with companies like Treaty Oak producing rum and Deep Eddy Vodka making the drink named for one of Austin’s famous swimming holes.

“For the longest time, Kentucky and Tennessee have been the states that have had bragging rights on distilled spirits,” Van de Putte said.

Much of the new legislation seeks to put Texas distillers on a level playing field with other states, giving them more options to produce and sell. Under one bill co-sponsored by Van de Putte and state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, Texas distillers can now buy beer and other liquor used in the making of spirits from other Texas distillers. Another bill by Van de Putte and Guillen allows distillers to solicit and take orders from wholesalers — something only out-of-state distilleries could do previously — and lets companies conduct product samplings at their distilleries with a specific permit to do so.

Daniel Barnes, president and cofounder of the Texas Distilled Spirits Association, said the new legislation would help the industry grow because consumers can now sample the products at the distilleries where they are made and talk to the experts who make them.

“They’ll be able to not only appreciate the craft spirit, but get to know us and get to know how to use craft spirits,” Barnes said.

See here for the background. You know that I approve of this, and would ideally like to see more done on all of these fronts to put craft brewers and distillers on even footing with their larger competitors and with other states. What we got was still a big win after a long and complex battle, and it’s very much something to build on. One of the things I noted when I blogged that earlier story was that the Yellow Rose distillery was planning to move from a suburban location to one near Old Katy Road and Loop 610 inside Houston city limits if these bills passed. They are in the process of moving and hope to have tours available beginning around Thanksgiving. I’m not a spirits drinker myself, but I’m glad to hear that and I wish them all the best.

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.