Filed Monday on the eve of the opening of the legislative session, two bills would allow Texas breweries to sell beer-to-go directly from their taprooms — something they fought unsuccessfully for two years ago.
State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, have introduced Senate Bill 312 and House Bill 672, companion bills that would make Texas the final state in the country to legalize beer-to-go sales from breweries. Currently, manufacturing breweries can sell beer only for consumption in their taprooms.
It's a "glaring disparity in the state's alcohol laws," Rodriguez said in a news release. He noted that consumers can take booze home directly from the state's other alcoholic beverage producers.
HB 672 "gives Texans the freedom to purchase beer-to-go when they visit a local brewery just like they can when they visit a Texas winery, distillery, or brewpub,” Rodriguez said. “The fact is, 49 other states already allow consumers to purchase beer-to-go when they visit a local brewery. ... Texas should be a leader when it comes to supporting small businesses, not the last horse to cross the finish line.”
Texas brewers had aimed to legalize these sales in 2017, but the powerful beer distributor lobby stymied their efforts and successfully pushed for new limits on breweries that grow beyond a certain size or become owned by a larger beer company. The law protects the three-tier system that regulates the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the state, according to the distributors.
Since then, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, an organization that represents the state's independent breweries, formed CraftPAC. The political action committee uses contributions from brewers and consumers to support legislation, legislative candidates and other political initiatives that will benefit the industry.
CraftPAC also put together an online petition that 7,000 people have signed so far, urging the Legislature to allow beer-to-go sales, according to the news release. The guild's executive director, Charles Vallhonrat, said in the release it's a sign there's good momentum behind the issue.
“This is something Texans care about, and the more they continue to make their voices heard, the harder it gets for big beer distributors to ask lawmakers to defy the will of their constituents and vote against something that both major political parties, the brewing industry, and consumers support,” he said in the release.
Under current Texas law, manufacturing breweries that produce less than 225,000 barrels of beer a year can sell up to 5,000 barrels annually of beer made on-site to taproom visitors for on-premise consumption only. SB 312 and HB 672 would change the law to allow consumption of the beers on- or off-site. The limits on beer sold in the taproom would not be altered.
Some Austin breweries, including East Austin's Hops & Grain, once categorized as manufacturing breweries, have been reclassified as brewpubs to get around the restriction. Hops & Grain founder Josh Hare said that being able to take beer home from the brewery is a key part of the experience of visiting local breweries.
“The advantage in selling beer-to-go, for me, is that you are able to offer customers the full brewery experience that is becoming not only the norm across the U.S., but an expectation. And if you can’t offer that experience to folks that visit your brewery, I firmly believe that you’re at a disadvantage,” he wrote in a blog post in late 2017 announcing Hops & Grain's switch to brewpub status.