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.

4 comments:

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.