Monday, April 4, 2011

Drink Beer, Save Texas

Today, in the midst of financial ruin and populist turmoil, truly meaningful legislation was debated in the Texas House of Representatives. House Bill 660 was introduced, which would allow Texas Brewpubs to sell their beer to wholesalers and distributors directly. From the NYTimes, "Under state law, brewpubs can make and sell their beers only on site; they are not allowed to distribute their products themselves or through a separate wholesaler. Only breweries that do not sell their own products on site may distribute their beer through wholesalers. House Bill 660, filed by Representative Mike Villarreal, Democrat of San Antonio, would give them the green light to increase production, sell to beer distributors and sell directly to stores and restaurants if they produce 10,000 barrels of beer a year — the equivalent of 20,000 kegs — or less."

The proponents of 660 (including many beer distributors and Lee Nichols of ILOVEBEER) were clear and concise in making their points: It's good for Texas businesses. It will end the state's current discrimination against its own brewers in favor of out-of-state ones. It's good for tax revenue, which the state badly needs right now. The bill could put more money in the hands of distributors. Lastly, it allows for Texan brewpubs, and craft brewing - a booming industry - to become to be national success stories.

I've tried to find good opposing reasons against HB 660, most of them pertain to fears of alcohol sales in dry counties or to minors, or so they purport. The NYTimes reports,
"Major beer distributors do not want to open those spigots. Their lobbyists argue that allowing brewpubs to sell their own wares would destroy the regulatory system in Texas that has operated, effectively and profitably, since the end of Prohibition. Rick Donley, president of the Beer Alliance of Texas, which lobbies for companies that distribute major-brand beer and some craft brews, said the three-tiered system — which regulates the production, distribution and retail sales of beer separately — made the beer business easier to regulate and tax, and keeps any one business from creating a monopoly. Because brewpubs are not currently regulated in the same way as distributors, Mr. Donley said he worries that their products could be shipped to dry counties or to minors. “This regulatory system has worked well since Prohibition,” Mr. Donley said. “Why anybody wants to disrupt it is a question I can never quite get an answer to.”

CHANGE IS NEVER THE ANSWER. NEVER! Nothing could ever possibly be better than a system that has been in place since the 1920s. Just keep sipping on one of the top five brands of beer in Texas, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission: Bud Light, Miller Lite, Budweiser, Coors Light and Natural Light. Mmmm!

The brewpub supporters point that the legislation would make brewpubs that produce up to 10,000 barrels a year and sell directly to restaurants and stores subject to the same requirements as wholesalers and distributors.

“At the end of the day, it’s just about they don’t want increased competition and how that affects their personal wealth,” says Freetail Brewing Company Pub Owner and Brewer Scott Metzger (who is also an economics lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio and seemingly awesome dude).

Anyway, they're still fighting it out. But don't worry, those representatives of yours are working hard! They passed a bill allowing you to shoot pigs from a helicopter.

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