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Texas Matters: Changing The Beer Laws In Texas One Bottle At A Time

There is speculation that beer is the reason the first human tribes stopped their nomadic wanderings and began to set up permanent settlements. They wanted to plant and cultivate the ingredients to beer.

Even before the first loaf of bread was baked these prehistoric partiers were home brewing their own suds. The settlement’s brew master was the community’s wise man, scientist, doctor and law giver.

Lawmakers vs. Brew Masters

In modern day Texas there are laws in place that hold back what could be a major industry in the state, an industry that could create thousands of jobs and improve the quality of life for the people who would like to have more and better beer in their lives.

Under the law, microbreweries cannot sell their product off-site, which limited the options for such operations at Texas Public Radio's Views and Brews event on Thursday night.

The two microbreweries present at the event, Blue Star and Freetail, were limited to only serving their product for free, and only in 4 ounce cups for a total of 24 ounces per person.

Scott Metzger is the owner of Freetail Brewing. Metzger is involved with the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and is very vocal about his displeasure with the current beer laws in the Lone Star State.

"Because of Texas restrictions we really lag the rest of the country in this developing and burgeoning segment of the beer industry, which is really the only growing segment of the beer industry. Frankly I don't know a lot of areas where Texas likes to be last at, and hopefully we don't continue to be last in this area."

Tim Campion works for GLI Distributing and has been in the beer business for 34 years. Campion first worked in the off-premise sector with a grocery operation, and then as an independent owner in the on-premise sector.

"It's a divided association for sure (Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas). There are some that believe that the law shouldn't change and it's just antiquated and they stick to their traditions, the laws that have been written years ago. Personally, I believe in better beers, I believe that a rising tide helps float all ships."

Travis Polling is the author of the book "Beer Across Texas" and is a journalist blogger who has covered the politics of beer.

"Wineries, it took them 10 years, but they won the right from the legislature to actually sell some wine right there at the winery... Beer has been discriminated against in that sense and I think people are surprised by that when they do find out."

Representative Mike Villarreal is leading the legislative charge to change the beer laws in Texas. Villareal is a democrat who represents District 123 in San Antonio and has introduced legislation in Austin to allow brewpubs in Texas to operate as microbreweries.

"In the end, anything that stands in between a Texan and his favorite beer is not long for this world."

Proposed Legislation Currently Brewing in the Legislature:

Senate Bill 515 lifts the cap on the amount of beer that brewpubs can make a year to 12,500 barrels from 5,000. It also would allow brewpubs to sell up to 1,000 barrels a year off premises to bars, restaurants and stores in state and out of state. Presently under Texas law, a brewpub can only sell at the brewpub itself.

SB 516 and 517 would allow microbreweries to make up to 125,000 barrels of beer a year and still self-distribute, without a middleman, up to 40,000 of those barrels.

SB 518 would allow the brewery to sell beer to the consumer on site at its own tasting room.

Question and answer session.

*Feel free to comment on the discussion in the comments below.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi