The Austin Chronicle

Beer Bills Brewing at the Lege

By Lee Nichols, January 14, 2011, 1:35pm, Newsdesk

The Legislature is back in town – you’re gonna need a drink.

Unfortunately, Texas’ stupid, arbitrary liquor laws make it hard on the businesses that would like to get one to you, especially beermakers. Two bills were introduced this week to help brewers out, but if history is any guide, it will be tough.

The bills are mirror images of each other:

Microbrewers (small brewers who do nothing but make beer) want the right to sell their product directly to drinkers on the premises of their breweries. Texas wineries are currently afforded this business-boosting privilege, but suds producers are not, and are required to go through wholesalers. (Brewers can give away beer on-site, but not sell it.)

Technically, House Bill 602, by Houston’s Jessica Farrar, would still deny them this right, but it would allow brewers to offer up to two cases of their beer as a parting gift after brewery tours – for which the brewers may charge “admission.”

Similar bills in the past two sessions have gone nowhere thanks to opposition from the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas.

Meanwhile, brewpubs (restaurant that make their own beer) want the ability to sell their brews off-premises. Currently, these small brewers can only sell their brews in the restaurant and can’t get it on store shelves.

This creates a sorry situation where out-of-state brewpubs (such as California’s Bear Republic Brewery) can put bottles of their beer in Texas stores, but Texas brewpubs cannot.

HB 660 by San Antonio’s Mike Villarreal would let brewpubs sell to wholesalers and distributors, as well as let them self-distribute up to 10,000 barrels.

“Given the current economic conditions and looming budget deficit, this bill provides much needed help by creating new jobs and increasing the tax base,” said Scott Metzger of Freetail Brewing, a San Antonio brewpub, in an e-mail.

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