Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, said things have been crazy for his group lately as they have made serious progress on a bipartisan bill aimed at reforming the state’s antiquated alcohol regulations. From the guild:
This legislation represents the most comprehensive and positive reform of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code in more than 20 years, while serving the entire industry from the manufacture down to the consumer. Brewers will see reduced regulation, the elimination of redundant licensing, and the ability to get product to market faster. Distributors and retailers will see a stronger market with even greater brand choice. And most importantly, consumers will enjoy the fruit of these improvements, including the ability to buy beer to-go from their favorite brewery.
The big thing we were watching was the progress of the “Beer-to-Go” campaign, and Vallhonrat told us the guild signed an agreement with the distributor group that was the primary opposition to the bill. With the language of Beer-to-Go agreed upon, things are in motion. Here’s the full update from our chat with Vallhonrat.
CBB: How long have you been working on this?
Vallhonrat: Beer-to-Go specifically has been on our legislative agenda since 2013 when taproom sales were legalized but only for on-premise consumption. The Texas Legislature meets every other year, and we have introduced Beer-to-Go bills in every session sine 2015. So, this is the third iteration.
How are you feeling now about its possible passage?
Now that the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas [WBDT] has come to the table, we feel pretty confident. The biggest opponent to Beer-to-Go [WBDT] has signed an agreement with the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and the Beer Alliance that will allow for Beer-to-Go to be connect to the TABC Sunset bill. With that last major obstacle behind us, we are waiting for the bill to be heard on the Senate floor and anticipate it passing.
Why is it finally happening now? Did you need to make other concessions?
We believe that Beer-to-Go is making headway this session due to the grassroots support the issue has gotten from craft beer fans in Texas. The issue made its way onto both the Republican and Democratic state party platforms for 2019, we’ve had 15,000 plus people sign a petition showing their support for Beer-to-Go, and we know we’ve had thousands of people email, call and tweet their representatives and senator to express their support. That made a difference.
Anything else in the bill to watch?
The overall Sunset bill has a lot of great stuff in it that will be beneficial to the craft beer industry in Texas. The bill eliminates the current distinction between beer and ale in Texas and the redundant licenses/permits that come with that distinction. It also includes a streamlined label approval process so that beer can get to market faster, and it allows our self distributing breweries to set up out of county warehouses so they can deliver the freshest beer in a timely manner to accounts outside their home county.