Texas Craft Brewers Get Political

Coalition to utilize technology to push for direct sales legislation

A coalition of Texas craft breweries and beer lovers called Friends of Texas Microbreweries have launched a campaign to allow small Texas breweries to sell directly to consumers. Currently, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code requires breweries to sell only to distributors and retailers.

“We can no longer ignore the fact that 14 out of 19 microbreweries have failed in Texas in part because current regulations disadvantage microbrewing small businesses,” said Saint Arnold founder Brock Wagner. “This common-sense proposal will allow Texas microbrewers to compete with out-of-state microbrewers on a level playing field.”

In 2003, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 11, which changed the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code to allow Texas wineries to sell limited quantities of their beverages directly to patrons. Friends of Texas Microbreweries is proposing a similar change for microbreweries, which would allow on-premise sales of no more than 5,000 barrels of ale and malt liquor annually.

“It has been three years since Texas voters clearly signaled they support common sense beverage laws,” said Fritz Rahr, founder of Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in Fort Worth. “It’s time Texas craft brewers offered the same customer-friendly advantages that Texas wineries already have.”

Friends of Texas Microbreweries has plans for an unconventional campaign. Along with the traditional elements of legislative outreach, the coalition plans to utilize trendy technologies to help it reach and mobilize grassroots opinion-leaders. For instance, Saint Arnold Brewing has launched a blog at http://www.starnoldgoestoaustin.com/blog and also plans outreach to other bloggers throughout Texas.

“Texas beer lovers are enthusiastic and always ready to take action when they see something that needs to get done,” Wagner said. “Our blog will be instrumental in getting our message out to tens of thousands of members of Saint Arnold’s Army, so we can mobilize them to encourage legislators to allow Texas craft brewers to compete with out-of-state craft brewers.”

In addition to Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing Company, every other Texas microbrewery is backing the initiative, including Independence Brewing and Live Oak Brewing Company in Austin, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in Fort Worth, and Real Ale Brewery in Blanco.


  1. kaiabrew says

    It’s great to see you guys get together to promote the industry. That news coverage was great. I can’t believe that there are only 5 micros in Texas. You should hype the economical ramifications of the Craft Brewers conference being held in Austin in April. With the many vendors, brewers and allied trade members coming to eat, drink and stay in Austin, there should be some data available about how this tourism will effect the area! There is a law in Maine that allows small brewers to self distribute up to 50,000 gallons and we can sell directly from our breweries to customers. Also, check out NY State and their push for a brewers trail sponsored and marketed by the State.

    Good Luck! See you in April!

  2. Butcher Scott says

    I wonder if this would also have the affect of allowing Brewpubs to sell to off-premise accounts. Perhaps Brewpubs would have to redistinguish themselves as a Texas Microbrewery with on-premise sales, but it seems like it would fit the classification of what is allowed below, since no Brewpub in Texas does anywhere close to 5,000 barrels a year.

  3. crassbrauer says

    I’m wondering if anyone out there knows if it’s the megabreweries’ lobbyists who are hindering common sense change in Texas, or if it’s legislators’ puritanical puerile pseudo-Christian attitudes towards alcoholic beverages, or if it’s a combination of both?

  4. beertje46 says

    crassbrauer wrote: I’m wondering if anyone out there knows if it’s the megabreweries’ lobbyists who are hindering common sense change in Texas, or if it’s legislators’ puritanical puerile pseudo-Christian attitudes towards alcoholic beverages, or if it’s a combination of both?

    All of these plus the Three Tier System.

  5. crassbrauer says

    From what I understand (please correct me where I’m wrong), the three tier system is held in place in some states, like Texas, by the megabreweries’ lobbyists because it serves their purposes, i.e. by hindering the little guys from getting their products to the people, although it was originally put into place after Prohibition was repealed to placate those, who were opposed to lifting the ban on alcoholic beverages. The three tier system was a compromise to make a small portion of extremists happy, who had driven a law through Congress, which turned out to be a disaster.

    One still finds parallels in other areas of politics in the US and other countries: The extremists represent a tiny portion of the population but their self-centered, dogmatic agenda has been driven to the fore and adopted as policy because they’re well-financed and well-organized.

    I guess, the only solution is to be well-organized and try to find some financial backing as well, in order to fight this kind of thing…

    Three cheers for St Arnold!

  6. Butcher Scott says

    Obviously the megabreweries have a lot of political clout in Texas given there is a Bud plant in Houston and a Miller plant in Ft. Worth. It is also worth noting that A-B had no problems getting laws changed to allow them to sell at the A-B owned SeaWorld in San Antonio.