Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Texas Microbrewers Again Try to Legalize On-Site Sales

A bill has been introduced in the 81st Texas Legislature to allow microbrewers to sell their product on the premises of the brewery. Such sales are currently allowed for winemakers, but not beer producers. A similar bill was filed in the 80th Lege two years ago, but it died in committee.

The language of the bill is below. The bill number is Senate Bill 754 (author: Wendy Davis of Fort Worth), and its twin is House Bill 1062 (author: Lon Burnam, also of Forth Worth). (Hmm … do you think the guys at Rahr & Sons had something to do with this?)

I am a bit concerned that it specifies "ale" and "malt liquor" but not beer. I know that those words have specific (albeit arbitrary and inaccurate) meanings for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. I'll investigate further and give you an update. (SEE END OF THIS POST FOR UPDATE AND EXPLANATION)
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT relating to the sale of ale and malt liquor by brewer's permit holders.


SECTION 1. Section 12.01, Alcoholic Beverage Code, is amended by adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) The holder of a brewer's permit whose premises is located in an area where the sale of ale and malt liquor is legal and who produces at least 1,000 barrels of ale or malt liquor a year may sell ale and malt liquor manufactured or bottled on the permitted premises to ultimate consumers:

(1) in unbroken packages for off-premises consumption in an amount that does not exceed 35,000 gallons annually; and

(2) for consumption on the brewery premises if the brewery is located in an area where the sale of ale and malt liquor for on-premises consumption is legal.

SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2009.

UPDATE: Okay, as promised here's what the "ale" and "malt liquor" language is about. Definitions, according to the TABC and Texas Legal Code:

"Ale" or "malt liquor" means a malt beverage containing more than four percent of alcohol by weight.


"Beer" means a malt beverage containing one-half of one percent or more of alcohol by volume and not more than four percent of alcohol by weight, and does not include a beverage designated by label or otherwise by a name other than beer.
As I said, the definitions are arbitrary and have nothing to do with proper terminology as used by brewers. Those definitions could cause some problems, though: I just did a quick check of one brewer's website, and noticed that Saint Arnold would be able to sell some of its beers, but not all (their Wheat is 3.9% ABW, and thus fits the definition of "beer" and would be excluded by this bill). If the bill can even get a hearing, the authors may want to include "beer" in the bill as well.

UPDATE 2: On Sunday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's J.R. Labbe wrote an editorial favoring this bill, and did a good job previewing the battle that could kill this bill: Although lawmakers love to extol the virtues of small business, they also like the campaign cash that might come from big distributors who prefer to be the only game in town for beer sales.


bobbrew said...

Do you think it's Rahr & Sons that are influencing Ft Worth legislators? Or, could it be the Covey? And, if so, would it help them?

If I were a beer loving Ft Worth legislator, that's where I'd hang out.

War Horse said...

Even if the wording did restrict sales to certain types of beer, at least it would be a step forward. After a few years of seeing that the world didn't implode over on-site sales, perhaps a future legislature would open up the sales fully.

Lee said...

bobbrew: Based on the 1,000-barrel minimum, I don't think this law applies to brewpubs. Besides, brewpubs are already allowed out-the-door sales. Given that Rahr & Sons is within the boundaries of Lon Burnam's district, it seems pretty obvious he's sticking up for one of his local businesses.

bobbrew said...

Thanks for the education Lee. I was just hoping I might be able to get cheaper than $40 growlers of Barley Wine from The Covey if the measure passed.

doncarlo said...

Here's to hoping this passes this time around!

What exactly is the official designation between brewpubs like NXNW and brewers like (512)? I've often wondered but never got around to looking it up.

The American Don said...

What can we do to help push this along, or not do to hinder it?

Passage of this law would do so much for microbreweries in Texas. The 5 county area of Houston should have more like 10 microbreweries, instead of the 2 we got now. That's just pathetic.

Lee said...

doncarlo: According to state law, "The total annual production of malt liquor, ale, and beer by a holder of a brewpub license may not exceed 5,000 barrels for each licensed brewpub established, operated, or maintained by the holder in this state."

Another key difference: "A holder of a brewpub license may not sell an alcoholic beverage for resale." (Meaning, NXNW can't put it into six-packs and get it onto store shelves.)

American Don: The most basic thing to do is write courteous letters to your state rep and state senator, and to Governor Perry. If you aren't certain who your state legislators are, look them up here. And then spread the word to every beer drinker you know (get to blogging!) to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone started a Facebook group for this yet?

Lee said...

Sort of. A group was founded to support the previous bill two years ago, and now it's adding members again to support this legislation. Go here. Or if that link doesn't work, search on "Friends of Texas Microbreweries."

Arizona foreclosures said...

Thanks for the education Lee. I was just hoping I might be able to get cheaper than $40 growlers of Barley Wine from The Covey if the measure passed. Texas

stone said...

It is a nightmare living in a Texas HOA and our political leaders in Austin favor the HOA lobby over the citizens that voted them in.