July 3, 2013

Changes in Texas Beer Laws

With the recent signing into Law of the craft beer bills (HB 515-518) in Texas, there will be some big changes in how our local breweries and brewpubs are allowed to operate.  There have been several blog posts that expand on these better than I (and are listed below), but I will do my best to highlight the changes that affect the casual craft beer drinker.

First, Breweries will now be able to sell their beer at the brewery for on-site consumption (up to 5,000 barrels a year).  Instead of having to sell you a glass and giving you free samples of their brews, they will now be able to sell you an actual beer.  Imagine that!  BUT, you have to drink it at the brewery as it is for “on-site consumption” only.  Brewpubs have had the right to sell their beer for off-site consumption, but few have done so in large amount or with any regularity due to previous barrel limits, etc.

Second, the annual production limit for a Brewpub has been raised to 10,000 barrels. As an example, most craft breweries in Texas are under that 10,000 barrel limit, with the exception of Shiner, Saint Arnold, Real Ale, & Rahr and Sons.  Also Brewpubs were given a limited self-distribution permit, but allowed to sell all of their 10,000 barrels through a distributor.  There are several advantages to being a brewpub in Texas most importantly the ability to sell your beer for both on-site and off-site consumption.  Some disadvantages are if the brewery is growing fast they may soon exceed the 10,000 barrel limit and thus no longer be considered a brewpub under Texas law as well as some breweries never intend nor want to run a brewpub as its an added management and staffing issue.
A few local Austin breweries have already begun to embrace the new laws by changing their taprooms/tours.  Instead of selling you a glass they are selling you beer, which I think is great.  Although paying $10 for a glass and getting three beers was always a great deal, now the breweries will make money on their actual product: BEER.  In addition Hops and Grain as well as Jester King have filed to change their license to a Brewpub which would allow them to sell you beer to go. Jester King is already planning exclusive bottle releases of their Viking Metal and Atrial Rubicite in anticipation of the change.

Many are not completely happy with the group of bills as they make it illegal for breweries to sell their distribution rights and still do not allow breweries to sell beer for off-site consumption, I try to focus on the positive.  While still not on even footing with Texas Wineries, it’s a step in the right direction for Texas breweries and hopefully a sign of bigger and better changes to come.

Better and more informative blog posts:
Jester King http://www.hopsandgrain.com/2013/06/new-taproom-hours-beer-for-sale-at-brewery/

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