Last Friday evening, a mere two days before the veto deadline in Austin, Governor Perry signed five bills into law. This marks the beginning of positive change in the regulations governing the Texas craft beer scene. Compared to other beer-loving states like California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, Texas is still in the dark ages as far as beer laws are concerned. Awareness of the issues has grown in the last two years by both our legislators in Austin and the beer-drinking public. But isn't it about time breweries and brewpubs enjoyed the same legal rights as wineries in this state?
The new laws offer some small improvements. Brewpubs will now be legally able to distribute their products into retail outlets—like Spec's and your favorite grocery store—in growlers, cans, and bottles. Not every brewpub will choose to go the retail route, so in some cases you will still have to travel straight to the source to try the new brews. No word yet on whether or not the soon-to-open Houston brewpub, City Acre Brewing, will exercise this new-found freedom.
Another change in the law means that breweries, like Houston’s Saint Arnold, Southern Star, No Label, Buffalo Bayou, and the newest additions, Lone Pint and 8th Wonder, will now actually be able to sell beer for on-premise consumption. What a novel idea! Unfortunately, the bills still do not allow for to-go purchase to enjoy at home.
Don’t expect to see big changes overnight—Saint Arnold has already said that they will continue with their current tour and lunch structure, but they will now offer more limited releases for sale during the tour and special events. Expect to see expanded tasting-room hours, as the breweries adjust to these changes.
In Austin, Jester King and Hops & Grain have announced they are switching their brewery licenses over to brewpub licenses to take full advantage of changes in the law. Brewpubs now have better access to the market than ever before: they can sell you a pint to enjoy at the brewpub, a growler/bottle/six-pack to take home, and now they can also stock the shelves of your local liquor store or grocery. These are tremendous steps forward in the liberation of Texas craft beer.
The Texas beer scene will continue to blossom thanks to these changes and the continued efforts by some of our Texas legislators, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the Beer Alliance of Texas and Open The Taps. Now let's celebrate. Cheers!