Texas Craft Brewers Get Political

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.