Friday, May 27, 2011

A Sad Day

Yesterday was a sad day indeed for the Texas Craft Beer industry when via Twitter, Saint Arnold's Brock Wagner announced that HB 602 was dead. Ronnie Crocker has more on how this happened here. Here is the gist of it though, to get HB 602 through committee, a cap was placed that limited the size a brewery could be and also sell direct to the public. This deal was requested by the Wholesalers Distributors lobbying group in exchange for their support of the bill. It was this same deal though that caused A-B to pull their support of the bill and thereby causing its death. A-B requested the cap be pulled in the event that they wanted to do tours and allow on premise sales. Note though that the A-B plant here in Houston doesn't offer tours and hasn't done so in years and years. Also note that the Texas Legislature, by not passing this bill is supporting a huge international based company over local Texas businesses (don't ever let them get away with telling you they support small local business, its a lie). Lastly note that the Wholesalers would have you believe that they had to pull support because allowing A-B to sell beer direct would hurt their sales (again a lie, the pittance that A-B would be allowed to sell direct would in no way have an affect on their bottom line).

In reading tweets and other blogs, a lot of folks are pointing fingers and wanting to blame someone, which begs the question, who is to blame for this failure and what can we do to help get this to pass next time? Well, here is my two cents. As much as I want to, I can't blame A-B, even if they don't do tours currently, they want the opportunity, therefore they want a level playing field, just as they have in other states (yes you can go to other A-B plants or even Coors plants and buy beer direct, but why would you?). You could blame the Wholesalers for pulling their support of the bill without the cap. I think they do share a bit of the blame, as stated above, allowing A-B to sell direct would not impact Wholesalers at all. In fact allowing tourists to buy beer at local craft brewers would increase demand, thereby allowing Wholesalers to distribute more beer, and increasing their bottom line. How they don't see this is the definition of ignorance. You could even blame the Texas Craft Beer industry. Many folks including me, point to the hypocrisy of Texas Laws that allow wineries to sell direct, but not breweries. However there is one difference. Over 15 years ago Texas Wineries got smart and created a very effective and successful lobbying group. They spoke with one loud voice (and money) and that helped change the winery laws in this state. I have yet to see that with the Craft Brewing industry. It seems to me that the lobbying groups for Texas Craft Brewers like the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, lack focus and cohesion. I believe they do a very pour job of promoting Texas craft beer and helping raise the massive amounts of money that will be needed to defeat the other lobbying groups. Until they do those things, it will continue to be unlikely that laws change. Lastly, and who I think deserves the lions share of the blame is our honored Texas Legislature. They are the ones that continue to promote large international companies at the expense of small local Texas businesses, all the while filling their pockets with the massive donations they receive from those very same companies. They listened to the lobbyists, not the people and that is disgraceful.

Now we've directed blame, what can we do about it. Well we have 2 years to put a plan in place and act on it, but lets not wait, we can start to day. We as craft beer lovers need to promote Texas Beer. Cathy Clark on her blog had an awesome post about how we can do that very thing, especially out side the state borders. I'll add something else. Demand Texas Craft beer at your favorite restaurant. Demand that where you eat carries local beers. In Houston we have a lot of restaurants that talk big about serving local food, but then don't carry any Texas beer. Don't let them get away with it. Write letters to the restaurants, send them messages via Twitter, and Facebook, talk to the manager, do it respectfully, but if they don't listen, then maybe they don't deserve your business. Talk to your friends. We all have those that still drink only BMC products. Introduce them to the lighter side of craft beer like Saint Arnold's Lawnmower and Weedwacker, or Real Ale Fireman's 4, or Southern Star Bombshell blond, etc. Educate your friends and family, the more we educate, the closer we all get to the Texas Craft Beer industry we want. Lastly vote, and really look at who you are voting for. Ask your local rep the tough questions when they are asking for your vote. If they aren't supportive of something that you are passionate about then vote for someone who is. Until we change the mindset in Austin, things aren't going to change. If you do have a local state rep that is supportive of the Craft Beer industry set up a fund raisers, featuring Texas Craft Beer, be as supportive of them as you can be. We can no longer sit on the side lines. If you haven't yet, its time to get off the couch, get in the game do what it takes to get the bill passed next time. If you don't, then you can't complain if it doesn't pass.

12 comments:

Jeffrey said...

A well written, thoughtful response. I had come to a similar conclusion that from yesterday forward I would only drink Texas-owned, Texas-brewed beer (Bu-bye, Shiner.). And if the restaurant I was at didn't have it, I would leave.

This whole thing is proof of what Will Rogers said a long time ago: We have the best government money can buy.

Ousted Sports Editor said...

So in summation, laws and politicians need to be bought. God bless democracy and America. Feels good, doesn't it.

Alexander Hay said...

I think it would help to have a very simple list of those legislators who support the bill, and those who do not. I am in Whitmire's district and I don't think I will vote for him if he has a more outspoken pro-Texas business opponent.

MudRake said...

As someone who went to Austin to help get our gun laws changed to prevent unlawful arrests, I was appalled by the bush league quality of the legislature. Texas politics is the way Jefferson would have liked it: our once every two year legislature is peopled by part time politicians. The committee I spoke in front of was an insurance saleman in his daily life. There is nothing wrong with this, but it makes me question the sophistication of some of the legislators and how easily they are swayed by the big money interests.

@HoustonBeerMan said...

Bravo to Brock for all the time, effort and money he put into 602. We talked about it more than a couple of years ago and he never let his eyes leave the prize. You'll get it done, Brock and those who appreciate great beer will be there to help with the heavy lifting

Anonymous said...

Great post! I agree with all of the above mentioned, and truly believe that we as consumers must "get off the couch" and do something. Obviously the system i not working the way we want it.

@Jeffrey: I too am going to drink only Texas-owned, Texas-brewed beer. Why no Shiner? I know that they are owned by The Gambrinus Company, but they are based out of San Antonio. Doesn't that make them Texas-owned? Not trying to start an argument since I already know that I don't know everything.

- Your Friendly Conroe, TX Beer Drinker

endurathon said...

I recently moved to Lufkin from Denton. I tried to get my Brookshire Bros (whose headquarters is here) to order up a case, or whatever the minimum amount of Divine 11 they needed to make the order. The response was that the distributer did not carry that beer though they carry lawn mower and a few others. I also tried that with the Blue Moon Grand Cru thinking maybe I could get some of that, but it was the same answer. In short for the distributer to say that they would loose money is BS. Now when I go to Houston or DFW I buy my craft beers there, not buying local and not supporting my local city businesses as best I could. I'd also like a list of who voted for and against it.

Anonymous said...

Shiner deserves our support despite being owned by Gambrinus. They support craft brewing and have been producing some exceptional limited release beers in addition to the more mass market stuff.

tedo said...

A quick response to a question asked many times so far. Unfortunately there is no list of folks that didn't vote for HB 602. It made it through committee unscathed, however, it was never brought to a vote due A-B's objection. Your Lt. Gov Dewhurst decided it was better to listen to an International company, than local business. However, if you'd like to know where your local rep gets their donations check out ballotpedia.org, they have a great searchable database that will pull up each rep's top donors so you can check out whos buying off your representative.

Kevin said...

I am all about HB 602, and was involved in someone of the process on the state side. I am going to give the craft beer industry a little hint. There are lots of opinions out there as mentioned and people looking for someone to blame when they need to blame those heavily involved fighting for the craft industry. Let me help the industry with some advice that will get it passed next time. I know "craft beer" drinkers and producers hate AB and other larger breweries. (by the way Jeff, Shiner is owned and brewed by a Texas company) This comes down to a rights issue and was argued that way in the committee. You cannot pass a law that allows one brewery to do something, but does not allow another brewery to do the same thing. It doesn't matter the size or ownership of that brewery. As mentioned in this article, the craft beer industry made arguments that selling beer onsite would not affect AB and even if AB did, it would not affect the craft beer industry. So why wouldn't the craft brewers industry budge on allowing ALL breweries equality? Craft Brewers are constantly complaining about how AB dominates the market. Does this mean they should take away AB's rights? What you do for one, you have to do for all, in any issue. It doesn't matter who owns them or how big they are. This didn't come to "we lost to the big money" as Brock Wagner (Saint Arnold's) stated. You can't blame wholesalers either. They were a huge supporter until they recognized the rights of their client being stripped. They just followed the advice of their largest client. You would too. Also mentioned is the blame on Texas hypocrisy laws. Please note that the wine industry did not ask the State of Texas to discriminate against some wineries while allowing others rights and that is why it worked for their industry. If this law would have passed, AB would have immediately sued and the courts would have found it unconstitutional. Craft Brewers need to look at this as they would themselves. The minute you strip the rights of one person, you strip your own rights as well. Equality is going to be the key in getting this bill to pass. Craft brewers consistently talk about "coming together". Like it or not, it can't just be "craft" brewers, it has to be ALL brewers that are going to have to come together for this law to pass.

Neal said...

Kevin, it is my understanding that it was the WBD that asked for the limitation to smaller breweries, saying they would withhold their support without the production cap. I don't doubt for a single second that this request was made as a planned strategy, in backroom agreement with AB-Inbev, just so that ABIB could come in later and object to the proposal.

Anonymous said...

HB 602 status including voting results from the TX House are available here.
http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB602