Beer to go compromise endorsed at Texas Capitol

Every day hundreds of cans of beer roll off the assembly line at the Austin Beerworks Brewery.

The locally made beer is shipped to area stores. It's also poured out and served up in the brewery tap room. While it's ok to have a taste, current state law doesn't allow businesses the size of Austin Beerworks to let customers take a sample home with them.

That sudsy dilemma came as a surprise for a couple visiting Tuesday afternoon.

"At the grocery store you can’t taste it. So at the grocery store you are, am I going to like this beer or am I not going to like this beer, so you come to the brewery to specifically taste it, and then you can’t buy it and take it home,” said the customer who only identified herself as Marci.

At a state capitol news conference, Tuesday, a plan to change the law was endorsed by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and the Beer Alliance of Texas.

"You can go to a Texas winery and get a bottle to go, you can drink a glass of wine and buy a bottle to go, you can do the same thing at a brewpub and distillery, there is no reason why you should not be able to do this in a brewery in Texas,” said State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez ( D ) Austin.

The Austin Democrat joined Travis County Republican State Senator Dawn Buckingham in filing identical House and Senate bills.  

The bipartisan effort adds the words- “off premise consumption” to the current state law. That would allow medium size breweries to sell, beer to go, from their tap rooms.

The legislation represents something rare nowadays in politics; compromise. It protects what's known as the three-tiered system for distributors, but allows Brewers some extra flexibility. As part of the compromise, only up to two cases of beer per person per day can be sold on site.

Both sides also agree not to try to lobby for changes in production caps for the next 12 years.

"There are 7,000 breweries in the country right now and only 100 can’t sell beer to go. 100 breweries in Texas,” said Michael Graham co-owner at Austin Beerworks.

The change in the law, according to Graham, is about growth not necessarily sales from the tap room. 

"So while it’s a small volume it’s a huge marketing opportunity for us and I think it will help every brewer in the state,” said Graham

Small operations like Beer Pubs that have not expanded, for fear of losing the ability to sell on site may now be able to change their permits and increase production.