Texas Brewers Take Off-Premise Sales Fight to Legislature

Austin Ray

THE GIST
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild plans to help introduce a bill this year that would free up off-premise sales in the state, according to Austin 360. Under the status quo, brewers are strictly prohibited from selling beer to go, while wineries, distillers, and even brewpubs are free to sell their wares to be consumed at home. Presently, there are only a handful of states in the country that prohibit brewers from selling their own beer for off-premise consumption.

WHY IT MATTERS
Well, there’s certainly more than one way to crack a beer, and here’s fine proof.

As we reported in November, there’s a pending lawsuit, filed by Deep Ellum Brewing, which aims to challenge and ultimately do away with the law in question. “It’s about equal rights. It’s about leveling the playing field,” company founder John Reardon said when he first sparked his brewery’s litigious flame in the fall of 2015.

The guild, of course, is aware of that effort, and Charles Vallhonrat, the organization’s director, says it is “closely watching” the lawsuit to see how it unfolds (a ruling hasn’t yet been handed down). No less, the organization isn’t taking anything for granted or assuming the law will be deemed unconstitutional. Hence, Vallhonrat says it will be bringing a bill of its own to the legislature this year, meaning the brewer’s side of the industry is taking somewhat of a two-pronged approach to forcing the issue.

Brewers won’t go unchallenged, of course. Standing in opposition to the guild’s efforts will be Texas beer distributors, which fear that loosened restrictions would inevitably hurt their businesses. The state’s brewers, however, say those fears are unfounded.

“We don’t see it as an alternative to retail sales,” Vallhonrat tells Austin 360. “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.”

A similar effort to update the law failed in 2015, though the state’s brewers have made legislative gains elsewhere in the last few years. In 2013, the state finally passed a law allowing brewers to sell beer for on-premise consumption. While that was a positive change, brewers there see more work that needs doing. It remains to be seen what will be made of this bill once the distribution lobby has its say against it, but it certainly seems like the brewers aren’t going away until the job is done.

—Dave Eisenberg
 
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Texas craft brewers have one big goal for the 2017 legislative session [Austin 360]