Texas has become the final state in the country to allow its manufacturing breweries to sell beer to go from their taprooms.
Saturday morning, after six consecutive legislative sessions during which brewers fought to legalize beer to go, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill that will make it so, perhaps making a little bit of history himself by holding the signing ceremony at a local brewery, Austin Beerworks.
One of its co-founders, Adam DeBower, was particularly instrumental in getting the issue front and center at the Texas Capitol, as the legislative committee chair for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild.
“As a manufacturing brewer, it’s hard for me to put into words just how important this legislation is to our industry,” DeBower said when introducing Abbott in the packed taproom just before 11 a.m. Saturday.
Starting Sept. 1, consumers will be able to buy up to a case of beer per day per person at any manufacturing brewery in the state. These include Austin Beerworks, Celis Brewery, Uncle Billy’s and Friends & Allies in Austin. Brewpubs such as the local Pinthouse Pizza and Oddwood Ales already have been able to offer take-home beers to customers.
The jovial signing — during which Abbott and the main legislators involved in passage of the bill sipped cans of Austin Beerworks’ Pearl-Snap Pilsner — came after a bumpy legislative session for beer to go, despite the concept having bipartisan support in the Texas House and Senate. Beer to go’s main opponents, the distributor lobby, had argued that beer to go would erode the three-tier system that governs the production, distribution and sale of alcohol in Texas.
Ultimately, a compromise with each distributor group was worked out, and in the final days of the session, beer to go was unanimously approved as an amendment to a larger bill concerning the operations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
That bill, HB 1545, is what Abbott signed to great fanfare at Austin Beerworks. It serves as the “single most sweeping package of reform to the Texas alcoholic beverage code since its inception, and that is no exaggeration,” DeBower said. It included, in addition to beer to go, the removal of the arbitrary distinction between ‘beer’ and ‘ale’ and comprehensive label approval reform.
Abbott began his remarks by pointing out that he could begin with a series of cliches: “It’s time for us to belly up to the table and serve up a nice frosty tall glass of freedom before I make the last call for signing in the legislative session,” he joked.
“We could be making Texas history today,” he said later in the speech. “I’m unaware of any governor ever signing a piece of legislation in a brewery in the state of Texas.”
And once Abbott had signed the bill, he took full advantage of the setting. “I think this deserves a toast,” he said, and cans of Austin Beerworks’ popular pilsner were passed around to the governor and other legislators present, including Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, and Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall. The crowd in the taproom, which was full of media, brewers and other industry players, clapped and cheered as the governor and legislators took sips of their beers.
DeBower showed off the signed bill to friends in the taproom afterward.
“I am so stoked. Actually, ‘stoked’ might be an understatement,” he said, noting that Austin Beerworks will be among the breweries hosting beer-to-go parties in their taprooms on Sept. 1, when the new law goes into effect.