Texans and tourists who love craft beer may soon be able to buy their favorite suds directly from the brewery if a new bill introduced by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild is passed. A similar bill was brought to the Texas Senate two years ago, but it was rejected. Texas State Senator Kevin Eltife introduced the new statute despite the previous failure to alter the laws regarding direct sales of beer to the public. Other changes to Houston beer license regulations were enacted in 2013.
The bill is intended to attract national attention to Texas craft breweries. Visitors would be permitted to purchase souvenir beer to take back to their homes across Texas and in other states. Consumers would be permitted to buy up to two cases of beer from a Texas brewery each month. It is hoped that craft beer aficionados will visit the Lone Star State and enhance its reputation as a tourist destination for beer lovers.
The legislation allows smaller breweries that produce less than 225,000 barrels of beer annually to sell directly to their most ardent supporters, which would place Texas in the forefront of states with a burgeoning craft-brew industry. This bill would afford breweries the same rights enjoyed by wineries, distilleries and out-of-state competitors according to Senator Eltife.
Legislators passed numerous changes to the Texas beer license laws during their last session. Brewpubs were granted the right to distribute their products in off-site locations. Breweries were permitted to sell beer at their production facilities for consumption on premises.
This victory for the brewmeisters was also met with a defeat. Another bill was passed that prevented them from selling the distribution rights for their craft brews to Texas beer distributors. That money has traditionally been used by breweries to beef up their production capabilities. A current lawsuit against the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) seeks to have that bill’s passage reversed.
The new regulations permit breweries that have a brewpub license to sell beer on site in cans, bottles and growlers and to distribute their wares to restaurants, bars and beer stores. Breweries are ramping up their production by adding more locations to accommodate the expected increased demand.
Another bill, however, has been introduced that would severely curtail the amount of beer that breweries could self-distribute in Texas. The current limit of 40,000 barrels would be reduced to 5,000 barrels if Houston’s State Representative Senfronia Thompson’s bill becomes law. This is in direct contrast to the previous bill granting breweries that produced 125,000 barrels or less the right to self-distribute 40,000 barrels. The reasoning behind the abrupt change is unclear, but the bill is certain to affect the holders of a Houston alcoholic beverage license.
Craft breweries are seeking further rights during the current legislative session. They are asking for the right to sell beer at their production facilities for consumption off site. They are also trying to regain the ability to sell their distribution rights to Texas beer distributors.
A consumer advocacy group based in Houston called Open the Taps recently published a list of the most important modifications they are seeking this year.
- Elimination of the 24-ounce limit at beer festivals
- Take-home sales for production breweries
- Permitting direct shipments of beer from in-state and out-of-state breweries
- Growler sales at establishments with mixed beverage licenses
- Substituting the TABC labeling requirements with Federal TTB approval
- Other alterations to homebrew regulations
Texas craft beer has recently enjoyed a 44 percent increase in production by the breweries that will be most affected by the legislation. Texas breweries won 16 medals at the last Great American Beer Festival. In 2013, craft brews accounted for some $2.3 billion in sales.