Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jester King Sues TABC Over Freedom of Speech

Jester King Brewery has announced a lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on grounds that the state has violated its free speech and equal protection rights. I don't know if it will succeed, but it's certainly justified. The parts I like best:
  • They want to get rid of the stupid requirements that beer under 4% alcohol by volume be labeled as "beer" and over 4% as "ale." This results in the idiotic situation of lagers being labeled as "ale" or "malt liquor." Those are brewing style terminologies, not ABV. I once had a publicity guy give me an embarrassed apology as he handed me a review bottle of a dopplebock that was labeled "ale" because TABC required it. (A bock, of course, is a lager, not an ale.)
  • They want Texas brewers to be able to list ABV on bottles, like out-of-state beers do. I would guess the rationale for banning that info on bottles is that the state doesn't want people seeking out strong beer to get wasted. I would argue that it's necessary to prevent people from getting wasted. If I'm drinking a strong beer, I need to know that. I've accidentally gotten plowed on beers that were stronger than I thought, and it's not fun. I guess I should have thanked TABC in between pukes those nights. I'd even go further than the suit and suggest that brewers and bars be required to list ABV.
  • And most important of all, they want to do away with laws prohibiting production breweries from selling on-premises and brewpubs from selling off-premises. These are unreasonable restraints of commerce. Back in the spring I thoroughly documented failed attempts to legislate such change, so I guess it will have to be done in the courts.
Co-plaintiffs are distributor Authentic Beverage Co. and Austin restaurant Zax. If you want to read the full texts of the suit and TABC's response, go to BeerNews.org.


Jeffrey said...

God bless 'em, but I'm not sure how suing an enforcement agency instead of the Legislature, who wrote the laws, will help. It's a bit like suing APD because the speed limit on I-35 isn't 75 miles per hour.

Lee said...

Jeffrey: If the suit is successful, it can block the TABC from enforcing those laws.

Jeffrey said...

I guess it seems to roundabout for me.

Anonymous said...

"It's a bit like suing APD because the speed limit on I-35 isn't 75 miles per hour."
Jeffrey, not exactly. It's more like suing APD because Volvos (or whatever) can drive 70 on i-35 and everybody else can only go 55. At least the part about selling wine at a winery, but not being able to sell beer at a brewery.
And the whole mislabelling thing, that is just stupid.