Free market-loving Texans and craft beer connoisseurs alike may soon have to something to celebrate, as the Texas House has voted to allow craft breweries to sell beer-to-go—a major victory for the craft beer industry in Texas.
Currently, Texas is the only state that does not allow beer-to-go sales at craft brewery taprooms. When a patron visits one of Texas’ 200-plus craft breweries, they can often sample some suds in the onsite taproom. As the visit winds to a close, many visitors (especially those from out of town) will often ask if they can grab a six-pack of their favorite brew to take home and share with friends.
But, under current state law, that is illegal.
Earlier this year, the Craft Brewers Guild—the industry’s trade group—announced what they called an “historic deal” with the Texas Beer Alliance—a group which represents beer distributors, a perennial enemy to the craft beer industry.
Under the terms of the deal, craft brewers agreed to stand down on other legislative goals—like ending various restrictions on production—in exchange for the Texas Beer Alliance’s support for beer-to-go legislation.
However, a second distributor group, the Wholesale Distributors of Texas, never gave up on opposing the legislation and, as such, the legislation never received a committee hearing in either chamber.
So, when sunset legislation for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission by State Rep. Chris Paddie (R–Marshall) came to the House floor on Thursday, it was clear that an amendment to that bill would be the best chance the craft brewers would get this session.
State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D–Austin), who authored the original beer-to-go legislation, offered his amendment, causing a unique mix of Democrat and Republican legislators to come to his aid.
“This amendment is about supporting entrepreneurship across Texas,” said Rodriguez, who noted that his own district contains 13 craft breweries.
When Paddie made a motion to table the amendment, it initially looked as though the amendment had narrowly failed—with 72 legislators voting to table the amendment and only 71 supporting its inclusion.
But when a “verification” was requested to ensure the vote was correct, it was revealed that seven legislators who voted to table the amendment were not actually in the chamber, if in the Capitol at all, with other members voting for them. That brought the vote to 65-71, with beer-to-go prevailing.
Those looking to buy beer-to-go from their local craft brewery should wait on pouring a celebratory pint just yet, however. The bill must now go to the Texas Senate before it is brought to the governor’s desk.