On Tuesday morning the Business and Commerce Committee convened at the capitol in Austin to discuss, among other things, the future of beer in the state of Texas. In the front of the room, some of Texas' most powerful state senators sat behind their nameplates at a long curved table. Facing them in the back of the room stood some of Texas' most popular craft brewers, trimmed out in dark suits and starched white shirts.
For years Texas craft brewers have made trips to the capitol to plead their case for a tweaks to the three-tired system that shapes alcohol code, changes they say would better accommodate the modern market place but in the past have been fought by established wholesalers and giant breweries that make their livings off the existing system. Still, this session looked promising. Legislators and representatives from across the industry had been meeting over the past year to work on legislation that could open the taps for craft brewers. There shouldn't have been any surprises.
But there was -- a big one that could raise the cost of six-packs statewide or perhaps bring a whole body of carefully crafted compromises crashing down. Again.
Chairman of the committee, Senator John Carona of Dallas, noticed the large crowds amassed in the back of the room and, seeking to quell a bit of tension in the air, addressed the group and asked them not to worry.
"Take a deep breath," were his exact words.