The Texas craft beer industry continues to grow daily, with more new breweries popping up around the state than before. For a state that took home the third-most medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 2017, it comes as no surprise that Texas' craft beer industry is booming. However, with a boom also comes growing pains as craft brewers continually battle state legislation that threatens to infringe upon their rights. The Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the magic behind the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, formed a political action committee (PAC) to offer support for legislation, candidates, and other political initiatives that benefit the craft beer industry.
As the Austin American-Statesman reported, the CraftPAC will work with the brewing community in the state to offer monetary contributions to those legislative efforts and candidates that work to protect the interests of the craft beer industry in Texas. Why this move necessary? If you're not deeply involved in the craft beer world, you might have missed the passing of HB 3287, a law in Texas that prohibits "taprooms in breweries that grow beyond a certain size to become owned by a larger beer company." This law, which also puts a ceiling on craft beer acquisition from larger brands, was opposed by a majority of Texas brewers. However, it was able to move through the state's legislation process uninhibited.
Here's a breakdown from the Brewers Association per the Texas Craft Brewers Guild,
The latest version of HB 3287 [would] require craft breweries who produce (or will produce in the future) 175,000 barrels of beer per year, and want to keep their taprooms open, to pay those same Texas wholesalers behind this bill what is essentially a tax on taproom sales.
In other word, distributors would collect a fee for any beer sold in a brewery's own taproom, even thought that beer never leaves the brewery.
Austin Beerworks co-founder Adam DeBower told the Austin American-Statesman that the PAC "is a way that we can raise money not just from the craft brewers in the state of Texas but also the fans, the craft beer fans. Get them engaged, get them involved...quite frankly, the beer laws in Texas are broken, and we need to fix them."
The Three-Tier System
If you're wondering what beer laws he's referring to, consider the three-tier system Texas currently operates under. That looks like this: Breweries make beer; distributors sell beer to retailers; and retailers sell it to the public. These regulations were established after Prohibition was repealed in the 1930s.
However, "Texas is the only state in the U.S. that doesn't allow its breweries to sell beer directly to consumers to drink off-site," which boils down to the fact that Texas breweries cannot sell beer to go in their taprooms, something all other states allow.
Supporters of the three-tier system value the competitive marketplace it creates, especially for small breweries that can't afford a distribution tier, but can still go to market. The Beer Alliance of Texas and the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas offer full support for the system because, as you can sense, they profit from boxing out small breweries.
However, there was one glimmer of hope to the Texas Craft Brewers Guild during its fight against HB 3287: the fans. An online petition created by the guild "generated 'about 15,000 signatures in a 48-hour period'," according to DeBower, from the Austin American-Statesman.
Realizing the power of social media and word of mouth, CraftPAC was born. Dedicated to replicating that effort across the state to fight the smaller battles local breweries need, CraftPAC has four goals, listed on their website.
- To secure the right of manufacturing breweries to sell beer-to-go directly to consumers at the brewery. Such reasonable business practices are already allowed for Texas wineries, distilleries, and even brewpubs.
- To expand and sustain craft brewery growth and beer tourism, generating maximum economic impact and creating thousands more jobs throughout the state.
- To protect and ensure craft brewers' access to markets so Texas consumers can enjoy beer whenever, wherever they choose.
- To reform antiquated and outdated regulatory statuses. Such regulations place unnecessary strain and expense on small brewers.
To learn more about CraftPAC, from contributing monetarily to supporting your local brewers, head on over to their website.