I spent the better part of yesterday trying to make sense of the supposed far-reaching craft beer legislation that is being trumpeted across social media. I just have one question. What's so great about it? More specifically, what parts of it will actually benefit Dallas beer?
Senate Bills 516 and 517 do nothing but provide self-distribution rights to out-of-state brewers. You don't see much commentary on these bills because they have no impact on the state financially, and don't extend any rights to breweries here at home. They essentially set aside the discriminatory practice of allowing only in-state breweries to self-distribute. That's it.
Senate Bill 515 would allow brewpubs to sell their beer to distributors and/or self-distribute their products on a limited basis. Ironically, this bill reverses discrimination in the other direction, since up to now only out-of-state brewpubs have been allowed to sell their products in Texas. Under the new law, consumers stand to benefit from the possibility of having access to brewpub creations from outside the city, but I wouldn't expect much from the locals.
Taking stock of brewpubs currently operating in the Metroplex, Union Bear's brewing system is currently idle, while Zio Carlo is only just now preparing to release their first official beer. Uncle Buck's seems equally unlikely to bottle, as does Humperdink's, who've gotten by for over 15 years without packaging their beer. And, Gordon Biersch? They're owned by out-of-state interests, so you've been able to buy their brews at retail for some time. Beyond that, there are no known brewpubs currently in an advanced stage of development in or around Dallas.
That brings us to Senate Bill 639. The much-vilified price-fixing measures are now off the table, but what remains is the stipulation that breweries can no longer sell their distribution rights. I'm curious. If a brand or something you've developed has no value, why does the United States Patent and Trademark Office even exist? Such things matter in every other part of the business world, do they not? If they didn't, people wouldn't spend millions of dollars every year protecting their rights, and there wouldn't be a federal entity in place providing oversight. All this bill does is take away the promise of a much-needed cash infusion for breweries yet to sign a distribution agreement, or who still maintain some level of self-distribution.
Not exactly small business-friendly, if you ask me.
Finally, we look to Senate Bill 518 for some glimmer of hope. What brewers really wanted (and what wasn't even proposed) was the ability to offer beer to-go, most likely to those who attend weekly tours. Instead, they are getting what might be referred to as the "taproom" law, where breweries would now be allowed to sell a small amount of beer for on-premise consumption. Reaction is mixed, but taking the pulse of a few brewers in town leads me to believe we won't see a great deal of movement on this front either. Few, if any, have the time or resources necessary to expand and/or operate in such a way. Why? I'm guessing because most of them are too busy hitting the bricks in an effort to build their brand.
A brand, it seems, that may soon have no redeemable value.