When the “Beer to Go” amendment passed in the Texas Senate last week, it was easy to envision thousands of full pint glasses being hoisted in celebration from inside the state’s over 200 craft breweries. As a part of the Sunset Bill, Texas will no longer be the only state left in the United States to prohibit production craft breweries from selling beer to-go on premises once the legislation receives the signature of Gov. Greg Abbott.
Without question, there will be financial rewards for breweries that could soon send their taproom patrons and brewery tour attendees home with a case of cans or a growler or two. But given the circuitous, oft-frustrating route this law has traversed over the last few years, it’s understandable for local craft brewers to view this as a moral victory as much as a fiscal one.
“Having been beaten up in the Legislature for years,” Peticolas Brewing owner Michael Peticolas says, "it’s extremely satisfying to know that Texas brewers have finally obtained a modicum of influence in the legislative process.”
As an attorney (his full-time job before launching the brewery), Peticolas has been at the forefront of this brew-powered battle for a while now.
Having opened in the fall of 2018, Oak Cliff Brewing is one of DFW's newest craft breweries. But his outfit’s relatively young age doesn't keep owner Todd Holder from also feeling a similar sort of ethical triumph.
“It’s been frustrating at times," he says. “I’m not going to bad-mouth any certain tier or lobbyist group, but I could. I’m just glad an agreement was reached, and I feel like we won this one, barely.”
In a message posted to its Facebook page, Community Beer Company exclaimed, “This is a momentous change in Texas craft beer legislation.”
Of course, this is about business, and more specifically, these are small businesses primarily owned and operated independently. It’s doubtful that any brewery that’s eagerly awaited this victory has done so simply to pop a couple of tops and hand out a few high-fives. For now, Oak Cliff Brewing and Peticolas Brewing know they’re ready to take advantage of their new freedom, even if they’re not quite ready to explain how in exact terms.
Holder says that Oak Cliff’s “main focus is distribution” but also explains that he’ll soon be able to experiment a bit more from a retail perspective.
“It’s going to enable us to package and self-release some of our imperial stouts like Sombre, Name Drop, Canadian Tuxedo and more," he says. "We will also have some barrel-aged versions of those beers and other offerings.”
Of the trailblazers of the North Texas craft beer boom, Peticolas beers, like its award-winning, locally worshipped Velvet Hammer imperial red ale, have been a hot commodity in growler bars for as long as they've been available. And for an equal amount of time, fans have wondered when Peticolas would join in on the canning craze that seemingly every other local brewery, whether new or old, has gotten into. The owner allows “everything is on the table — growlers, crowlers and cans,” but staying true to form, he’s not spilling all the suds just yet.
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“You may recall that Texas brewers obtained the right to open a taproom in 2013,” he says. “But we did not open ours until 2017. We did not simply put a sign on the door and open the day after obtaining the right, but took the time to formulate and implement a plan that would provide a unique Peticolas taproom experience. Our approach has always been to do things properly, not quickly. So rather than having the effective date of a specific law dictate our timeline, we will work on a timeline that works for us.
"But rest assured, there will not be a three- to four-year lag, as we've planned for this for years.”
As exciting, and without a doubt, relieving, as getting the “Beer to Go” bill passed, Texas craft breweries have another ongoing legislative fight on their hands. Working to defeat Texas’ current “three-tier system” of beer distribution that forces craft brewers to give away their distribution rights for free has also been a years-long journey for Michael Peticolas. There’s no denying the “Beer to Go” win will be beneficial for him and his brothers and sisters in hops, but the lawyer is now ready to start piling up the wins.
“There is a real feeling of a huge weight being taken off of my shoulders with the passage of ‘Beer to Go’ just knowing I will not have to spend any more time or energy fighting for that right,” he admits. “But that's not to say such time and effort impacted my resolve for the fight in the judiciary. I'm definitely focused on our litigation and remain hopeful we can string together another win for brewers via the Texas Supreme Court. Back-to-back legal victories would make for one spectacular year.”