The Austin Chronicle

Microbrewers Bill Alive but 'On Life Support'

By Lee Nichols, May 6, 2009, 4:12pm, Newsdesk

Houston Rep. Jessica Farrar's bill to allow Texas microbreweries to sell their product on the premises finally made it out of the Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee yesterday. After being holed up there – due to the muscle of the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, she alleged – for more than a month, it finally passed out on a 5-2 vote.

Microbrewers and their fans should not pop the cork on the champagne – wait, make that a Belgian trippel – yet. This late in the session, it will probably be a bit much to expect it to get through House Calendars, floor debate, and then repeat the process in the Senate.

On-site sales for wineries were legalized in 2003; ever since, beermakers have complained of discriminatory treatment and pushed for similar rights. On-sites sales could have a particular benefit in Central Texas, which has four microbreweries: Live Oak, Independence, and (512) here in Austin and Real Ale in Blanco, not to mention the big kid on the micro block, Spoetzl Brewery in nearby Shiner.

(Microbreweries should not be confused with brewpubs – restaurants/bars that brew their own – which have been legal since 1993.)

Farrar said media interest in the bill is probably what finally crowbarred it of committee, but still, "it's on life support," Farrar just told me on the House floor. "But you know, it's progress. … Sometimes it can take several sessions to pass a bill."

Two years ago, a similar bill never got out of committee. The fact that the bill got out this time, she said, could help it get out earlier two years from now, perhaps with some tweaks.

And maybe a Hail Mary could still happen this session. "I still have some irons in the fire on this," Farrar smiled cryptically.

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