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Brewers Raise A Glass to New Beer Laws In Texas

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, raised a glass Wednesday night at the Blue Star Brewing Company to toast new beer laws adopted by the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Perry.

Those bills, dubbed the Texas Freedom Beer laws, will be changing the way craft brewers are able to reach their fans.

"I don't know anybody rich in this business, but they love what they do, and I think that's what binds us together, of course [for] the love for craft beer, and the love of connecting with our patrons and the people who enjoy our beers,” said Blue Star Brewery owner Joey Villarreal.

Villarreal been making his own beer for 17 years. The new laws will allow him to sell his beer to pubs and taverns across town, including his own local watering hole that literally neighbors Blue Star Brewing Company. Before, that was illegal.

"We have been here a long time, but even though we've been here a long time, a lot of people still don't know about us,” he said.

The laws may help craft brewers extend their reach locally, statewide and even nationally.

That’s part of why Rep. Villarreal signed on to get legislation like this passed – he felt it was unfair that pubs could buy craft beer from Portland, Oregon, but not be able to serve local craft beer, that in some cases, is made literally down the street.

"Our entrepreneurs now have equal treatment to other entrepreneurs from other states, and certainly the rest of us will be able to enjoy what they make,” said Rep. Villarreal.

Among the new pieces of legislation are Senate Bill 515, which allows a brewpub to manufacture up to 10,000 barrels, instead of 5,000, each year. The bill also authorizes them to sell their product to distributors for resale, or distribute up to 1,000 barrels a year themselves. Senate Bill 518 authorizes many breweries that brew on-site to sell their beers to visitors during tours.

It could be some time before your favorite brew is on tap. The paperwork to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has to be filed. But Joey Villarreal can't wait, because for him it only means bigger and better business.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.