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.