So far in 2007: fires, microbrews, and football

The most disconcerting aspect of the dawn of 2007 has to be that there have been three devastating restaurant fires in as many weeks. The fires that destroyed a Chili's outlet in South Austin, the venerable Bert's BBQ in the campus area, and the Buffet Palace north were all blamed on electrical wiring problems. The cautionary moral of these stories has to be this: Don't let those fire-insurance premiums lapse!... The mere presence of legislators in Austin is usually a boon for local alcohol sales, but this year, Texas microbrewers would like to see an even bigger boost. The five Texas microbreweries – St. Arnold in Houston, Independence Brewing Co. and Live Oak Brewing Co. here in Austin, Rahr & Sons in Fort Worth, and Real Ale in Blanco – have banded together to advocate changes in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code that would allow them to sell beer directly to the public rather than just to wholesalers. The brewers are convinced this will make their industry more financially stable, and they're all over the session, looking for friendly legislators willing to carry their water, uh, beer, um, their legislation. There is actually a bit of a precedent here. In 2001, TABC laws were changed to allow winemakers to sell their products directly to the public even if they were located in dry counties. The legal change proved to be advantageous for the Texas wine industry, and winery owners credit former Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs for her staunch support of their cause. It's a shame malting barley and hops aren't Texas agricultural crops. At this point, it appears the microbrewers have yet to find their legislative champion, so if you'd like to buy directly from the brewer, encourage your legislator to support this initiative... With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, you can bet the folks in Chicago are breaking out the beer, brats, and deep-dish pizza for their tailgate parties. There's no reason why that can't be done here: There are plenty of folks willing to do the cooking for you. Contact any of the many area Mangia locations ( to arrange for their signature football-shaped, deep-dish, Chicago-style pies. Call Wheatsville Co-op (3101 Guadalupe, 478-2667) to place orders for sausages, Buddy's Natural Chicken Buffalo Wings, Popcorn Tofu Buckets, meat & cheese trays, selections of salsa and guacamole, desserts, and locally brewed beers. Or, you could drop by the newest Dog Almighty (3005 S. Lamar, 476-3647) outlet for an appetizing array of grilled all-beef hot dogs, fresh-dipped corny dogs, Frito pies, and vegetarian items to satisfy the hungry football-loving hordes. I wonder what tailgating foods are distinctive to Indianapolis?

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Bert's Bar-B-Que fire, Buffet Palace fire, Texas microbrewers, Susan Combs, Wheatsville Co-op

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