Deep Ellum Brewing Co. Is Fighting Big Beer, Hosting Fundraiser for John Carona's Opponent

If you dabble in craft beer legislative issues, it might not surprise you that Deep Ellum Brewing Company is mixing beer and politics. And if you just enjoy craft beer, now might be a good time to start dabbling.

Texas craft beer and lawmakers have a complicated relationship. To explain it all we'd need a large dry erase board with timelines, Venn diagrams, most definitely a three-tiered chart. Splash a little beer on it, throw a bunch of money at it, put a photo of state Senator John Carona in the middle and squint real hard, and maybe it'd start to make sense.

We reported on several bills that were introduced during the last legislative session, tweaked and eventually passed. Some in the industry called the new laws a win for craft brewers. Some said "meh." The takeaway: Brewpubs can now package and sell at the retail level, and breweries can pour pints for on-site consumption.

But at the eleventh hour of what had been two-year long negotiations by a "working group" spearheaded by Carona, he introduced a new bill that contradicted the bills from the working groups he created, stripping craft brewers' ability to sell their distribution rights, which had historically been a nice chunk of change for start-ups.

See also: Sen. John Carona Responds to Backlash; Didn't Bring Up Craft Beer Issue to Craft Beer Group.

All of which explains why John Reardon of Deep Ellum Brewing Co. is hosting a campaign party at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 19, for Don Huffines, Carona's primary opponent in the upcoming senate election for a District 16, which covers a large swath of northern Dallas county.

"I'm choosing Don for the simple fact that it's time for a change," explains John Reardon, co-founder of DEBC. "Twenty-three years is too long for any politician to be in office."

Reardon takes issue with Carona's coddling of big beer distributors, namely Barry Andrews of Andrews Distributing, which is based in Carona's district. A lobby watch group, Texans for Public Justice, released the numbers on the money behind craft beer legislation in this report titled "Big Beer Drowns Small Competitors," which explicitly spells out the case.

Reardon sees beyond just one piece of legislation, however, and takes issue with the term.

"Don has signed a term commitment where he vows to serve no more than three terms," Reardon says. "He believes in putting an end to career politicians and that's something I strongly support."

The craft beer community still has some issues they'd like to work on in upcoming years. They remain the only segment in the state not allowed to sell their product for off-site consumption, as wine and spirit producers often do at the end of tours.

"As Chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee, Senator Carona will oversee every piece of craft beer legislation that makes its way to the capitol," Reardon says. "If he likes it, and if his big distributor buddies approve, it'll pass. If he doesn't, well, we've all seen what can happen here. He's a snake in the grass. He'll say one thing and do another."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.