Craft breweries throughout Texas are restricted from selling their products for off-premises consumption as part of a law many in the industry describe as outdated and unfair—but due to a pair of bills introduced to state Legislature in January, craft brewers could see substantial benefits.
Senate Bill 312, filed by state Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway—in concert with House Bill 672, filed by state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin—seeks to allow craft breweries the same off-premises selling parameters as wineries and distilleries.
Currently, the law of the land is different for licensed brewpubs such as B-52 Brewing Co. in Conroe, which is already allowed to actively sell packaged beer to-go—but licensed breweries, such as Southern Star Brewing in Conroe, will be affected by the bills because breweries cannot sell packaged beer to-go.
“The reason for us pushing beer to-go is trying to ease some of the regulations that we think are unfair,” Southern Star founder and CEO Dave Fougeron said.
Although Southern Star is the only craft brewery in the Lake Conroe and Montgomery area that would be affected by the bill, there are a few brewpubs in the county as well—such as B-52 Brewing, Copperhead Brewery and Cycler’s Brewing—separated by distribution caps.
A brewpub is limited to 10,000 barrels of production per year, but it can sell its beer and other brands at its establishment to-go. A brewery can manufacture up to 225,000 barrels per year and sell up to 5,000 barrels for on-site consumption—but not to-go.
“The passing of this bill will not directly affect us, as we already are lawfully allowed to sell package beer—but will greatly benefit the Houston craft beer community and licensed breweries as a whole,” B-52 Brewing General Manager Marin Slanina said.
Fougeron said he is a part of political action committee Craft Pack as well as the Texas Brewers Guild, both of which support the bills.
“In Texas, you can go to a winery and buy a bottle of wine to-go, you can go to a distillery and buy a bottle of liquor to-go, but you can’t go to a brewery and buy a bottle of beer to-go,” Fougeron said. “It doesn’t seem fair.”
Fougeron said Southern Star considers other local pubs; wineries, such as Blue Epiphany; and distilleries, such as Bartletts Distillery, friendly competition. He said his customers are frequently tourists or day-trippers who generally visit a few of them at once.
“My intent is not to take business away from them by any means,” Fougeron said. “What I intend to do, if this legislat[ion]passes, is use it as a tool that will not only benefit the [Southern Star] brewery, but benefit in the long run the whole industry.”