Wouldn’t it be nice?

Interesting news from the Texas Craft Brewers Guild today: a study published on the state of craft brewing in Texas, and where it could be in a few years. Where it could be, that is, if legislative reforms can be passed in the coming years to allow Texas craft brewers to sell packaged goods directly to the public in their tasting rooms, and to allow brewpubs to sell draft and packaged beer off premises.

According to the study, craft beer is a fast-growing industry in Texas. It could grow even faster than currently projected if small craft breweries and brewpubs weren't shackled by antiquated – we're talking the era of Prohibition repeal here – regulations positing a strictly enforced three-tier distribution system. This system favors industrial lager manufacturers and bigger out-of-state craft breweries with bigger distribution contracts, and makes it harder for smaller local brewing outfits to break in. They just don't have the market power to woo these independent distributors, who aren't in the business of gambling on new and untested products.

Those of us who live in the state and who follow the local beer scene are familiar with the difficulties faced by Texas breweries because of the current system and how incredibly unfair it is, especially since Texas wineries are allowed to sell directly to the public and build brand awareness, unlike breweries (and yes, their product contains on average twice as much alcohol by volume). Texas beer nerds are also aware of the ongoing struggle to advocate for more modern legislation through efforts such as last year's doomed-by-committee bills HB 602 and HB 660. Some Texas craft breweries and even distributors have joined the fight via lawsuits. But nothing has worked.

Will a study by an (admittedly biased) interested association on the economic potential of this growing industry be the thing that makes the Texas state legislature realize they're missing out on a golden opportunity in taxes here? Perhaps, though I won't hold my breath. But I'm of the opinion that any amount of publicity about this issue is good, and optimism never hurt anyone. There's always the 2013 Texas legislative session.

Someday we'll get there, and we'll look back on this era with sadness and embarrassment at how foolish we were, how blindly we let the interests of big business win out over those of Texas business owners and Texas customers. But until the sunrise on that bright, shining beacon of a day, we'll just wait. And hope.

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About Shawn M

Writer, podcaster, blogger, and homebrewer in Austin, Texas.

2 responses to “Wouldn’t it be nice?”

  1. D. Sullivan says :

    We have a similar problem here is Salt Lake City. Any alcohol that is over 3.2% ABW must be sold to the state first, it is then re-sold by the state through ‘State Liquor Stores’. Since there are no market competitors, the “gubment” gets to charge whatever they deem appropriate, as such we pay exorbitant prices for good craft beer, wine and liquor. It is such a huge revenue generator for the state that I fear it will never change. The irony is that Utah being a Mormon state, is making money hand over fist on a commodity which they abhor.

    • Shawn says :

      Amazing, and sad. Some of these state liquor laws are strange beasts, and they all seem to date to the post-Prohibition 30’s, when there was a lot of trepidation about whether making booze legal again would lead to epidemics of violent and antisocial behavior.

      But now, that moral justification is easily proven to be invalid. Your typical consumer of a high-alcohol beer is a craft brew aficionado, not an abuser – I don’t have statistics, but we all know it, and I bet someone has the proof. All these laws do now is limit the playing field for purveyors of real beer.

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