Craft brewers fighting to change state law

August 13, 2012 4:58:17 PM PDT
The growing business of craft beer brewers is pumping more money into the Texas economy. But these small brewers say they aren't getting as much money as they could because of some old restrictive laws they want changed.

Currently in Texas the beer industry consists of the three-tier system: brewers, distributors and retailers. Distributors have fought to prevent small breweries from selling direct at their locations. And the craft brewers say it's making the state miss out on jobs and tax revenue.

The craft brewing industry in Houston and all of Texas for that matter is experiencing a boom. The Karbach Brewing Company opened 11 months ago off Highway 290. They are already two years of ahead of financial goals.

"Right now, we are getting anywhere from one to two hundred people every time we have a tour," said Eric Warner, Karbach Brewing Co. Brew Master.

After a guest takes a tour and finds their favorite beer, they are not allowed to purchase at the brewery. Instead they must go to a grocery or liquor store. It's the way state law is written and a powerful lobby of distributors have fought for years to keep it that way.

The founder of Saint Arnold's Brewery is also working to change state law, but has met resistance for the last several legislative sessions.

"The lobbying, the power. We've gotten some distributors on board, many of our distributors have been incredibly supportive of the effort, but we've had other distributor lobbyists been the big road block," said Brock Wagner, found of Saint Arnold's.

An economic study commissioned by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild says changing state laws and allowing them to sell direct during tours and brew pubs to other businesses could bring in as much as $5.6 billion a year by 2020, plus tens of thousands more jobs across the state.

"You get a huge multiplier effect because of the additional money and the additional jobs. There's additional jobs now in distributing and in retail and there's a benefit it has on the economy at large," Wagner said.

The fear from distributors, craft productions brewers say, is not based in reality.

"Some of the people that visit us might live 30 miles away. It's not like they are going to drive out of their way to come buy beer from us every time," Warner said.

We contacted the director of Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas to ask why they continue to lobby against changing the laws, but they did not return our call.

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