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Governor Signed New Craft Beer Legislation That Allows Breweries to Expand Operations

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If you're a craft beer fan, you may want to charge up your cordless drill. On Friday Governor Rick Perry signed off on a five-pack of bills relating to the craft beer industry that will, in part, allow them to expand brewery operations.

For over a decade the Texas craft beer industry has been pushing for tweaks to the three-tired system that regulates how alcohol is sold and distributed in the state. Finally, last year the interested parties formed "craft beer working groups," set up by Dallas Senator John Carona, which sought to once-and-for-all settle all of their disagreements.

The committees met, hashed out their differences and in early February Senator Kevin Eltife of Tyler introduced four bills aimed at making life a little easier for craft brewers in Texas. Here's a recap of the bills that will become law on September 1:

• Brewpubs will be allowed to produce up to 10,000 barrels annually (up from 5,000) and self-distribute 1,000 barrels annually. That means you'll be able to buy brewpub beer, like Freetail Brewing of San Antonio, at stores.

• Craft breweries may sell up to 5,000 barrels annually directly to consumers for on-site consumption, meaning breweries might expand their taprooms soon.

• Breweries can now self-distribute more beer; 40,000 barrels annually.

However, these advances came with some losses:

• Breweries failed to get legislation passed that allowed them to sell beer at their breweries for off-site consumption, like wineries and, now, distilleries both are allowed to. Carona penned the distiller legislation this year. Read that story here.

• Even though Carona created the working groups for craft brewers more than a year ago, he failed to mention at any time a particular issue with the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas. This session he introduced a bill that made it illegal for brewers to receive payment from wholesalers for the right to distribute beer. This use to be a rather lucrative opportunity for craft brewers who sold distribution rights after they grew their business to a certain level. Under this new law that was signed on Friday, now brewers have to give away those distribution rights, which strips the process of its competitive nature.

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