Texas Rep. Senfronia Thompson filed legislation this week that proposed new limitations on craft breweries that operate in Texas. Specifically, her bill seeks to limit the amount of beer small breweries can self-distribute to 5,000 barrels a year. The current limit is 40,000 barrels.
Texas Brewers were quick to cry skunky suds. Thompson has long received large donations from organizations that lobby on behalf of Texas beer distributors, casting a dubious shadow on her bill, which would force small breweries to participate in the same distribution systems that cater to large, commercial operations. The move is decidedly anti-business, and Texas loves business goddammit.
The 35,000 barrel change is a massive reduction in the amount of beer local breweries can distribute on their own. Each barrel would fill two of those kegs you inverted yourself over till beer came out your nose in college. That means local brewers would lose their right to self-distribute 70,000 kegs of beer.
The 5,000 number is also insultingly low. So low, in fact, it threatens to impact even the smallest brewers. "I brewed 3,500 barrels last year and will cross 5,000 this year," says Michael Peticolas, owner and operator of Peticolas Brewery and a lawyer who's active on legislation that effects local breweries. To continue to grow, he'd have to find a distributor, giving up his distribution rights in the process. Revolver Brewing, a larger brewery that also self-distributes, would be hit even harder.
The ability for a brewer to sell its distribution rights has also been restricted by recent legislature. Overseeing distribution assures control over storage, delivery standards, pricing and other factors that can influence a customer's perception of the product. That's what makes the new bill particularly nasty for brewers.
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Insiders believe the legislation has little chance of passing, but the law would be particularly destructive if it did. That's why Peticolas and his fellow brewers are taking the new legislature seriously. "We're very much concerned with it," he said.