Historic Agreement Reached on Craft Beer-to-Go Bills

Texas Craft Brewers & Beer Alliance of Texas finally work together

If you’ve been around Austin’s craft beer soap opera for longer than 10 minutes, you’ve noticed the last 12 years has been an extended maudlin scene of brewers sulking in a tulip glass of hazy IPA, pouting about their inability to sell beer-to-go from their own taprooms. And rightly so!

Photo by David Brendan Hall

To put it into perspective, imagine that an artist who makes a smash hit album can only distribute that music to fans through a third party app and never in a live music format directly from the artist. An idiotic premise, right? That’s kind of how distributors treated craft brewers – with unnecessary overreach on how they could disperse their product to the people.

But you beer nerd praying types – or maybe it was the finger-crossing consortium – must have called in some favors because yesterday the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and the Beer Alliance of Texas announced an historic stakeholder agreement of a proposed new version of the bipartisan bill originally authored by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) that supports beer-to-go from manufacturing breweries.

Current laws restrict manufacturing breweries from selling to-go from their own taproom, but should the newest proposal pass, beer fans would be allowed to buy up to 576 ounces (two cases for you practical types) of beer per day from a craft brewery tasting room for off-premise consumption. That’s right: If this magnificent little piece of legislation passes, you can finally buy your favorite taproom-only sour loquat marshmallow Nutella saison to enjoy in the comfort of your own home!

"Allowing ‘beer-to-go’ sales is a common-sense issue that both Republicans and Democrats agree on because it’s good for small business and has come to be expected by consumers,” said Rep. Eddie Rodriguez in a press release. And that expectation led more than 12,000 Texans to sign a petition in favor of the bills. Rodriguez added, “Texans are incredibly excited about ‘beer-to-go’ as the public support for HB 672/SB 312 has shown, and I am glad that the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and the Beer Alliance of Texas have come to the table.”

Comically, Texas is the only state in the U.S. where consumers cannot purchase beer for off-premise consumption. Meanwhile, Texas wineries and Texas distilleries get to enjoy this very normal, industry-bolstering practice. You ever been to Utah? They make bartenders compose drinks behind a crazy frosted-glass divider and there is no such thing as “happy hour,” but they will damn well sell you a beer-to-go.

Passing this law could also prove incredibly advantageous for the creative spirit of craft breweries. Not only could it promote imaginative beer programs that can be researched and developed directly to the customer through the taproom (and by extension, to-go sales), but it could provide beneficial data for the distributors who wish to expand their portfolios with traditionally risky seasonals and one-off beers with reliable sales data from the brewery themselves. Because both parties appear to be invested in this piece of ordinary life (that basically every American not from Texas gets to enjoy), it makes it more likely to pass through the House and Senate before reaching Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

Josh Hare (Photo by John Anderson)

As a compromise, the two parties have also agreed to refrain from lobbying for any adjustments to Texas malt beverage barrel caps for 12 years. “We have committed to working with our friends in the craft-manufacturing segment on sensible regulations that provide for a stable and predictable three tier market in Texas that continues to be recognized as the gold standard for regulatory structures across the country,” said BAT President Rick Donley. The Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, a cohort who represents another large group of distributors in the state, did not endorse the agreement.

“The Texas Craft Brewers Guild is proud to promote a sensible alcohol regulatory framework that encourages competition, consumer choice and access to market for brewers in our great state,” said TCBG Board Chair (and co-owner of Hops & Grain) Josh Hare. “We are excited to be working with the Beer Alliance of Texas to promote common sense regulations that ensure the beer industry in Texas will continue to thrive.”

From the Press Release:

Key Points of the SB 312/ HB 672 Agreement

● Retain the 5,000 barrel cap on taproom sales.

● Allow sales for off-premise consumption in amounts up to 576 fluid ounces per calendar day, per person.

● Any product offered for sale in the taproom which does not have an approved label must post in plain view the alcohol content of that product.

● The total amount of on and total amount of off-premise sales shall be reported (in barrels) to TABC on a monthly basis. The Commission shall hold the records for public review.

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