Texas Senate Committee Advances Beer Compromise

The distance between Texas craft beers and your backyard barbecue started to close on Tuesday.

After a week of negotiations between brewers and distributors, an influential legislative committee sent the full Senate a proposal that would overhaul the way beer is sold statewide.

Small brewers have been campaigning to expand their market. Current laws prohibit pubs like Freetail of San Antonio from packaging their beer for retail stores. They also prevent breweries like St. Arnold's of Houston from selling beer to tour visitors.

Those brewers say the restrictions unfairly favor their out-of-state rivals.

The fight split the state's distributors, who have long held sway with lawmakers.

Under the compromise, brewpubs and small breweries would pay $250 for a license to sell their beer directly to consumers. Brewpubs would be limited to selling 1,000 barrels a year. And they would only be allowed to sell their own concoctions.

"You're going to see the craft beer industry grow," said Senator Kevin Eltife, the Tyler Republican who developed the bills, in an interview. "There'll be more choices."

Senator John Carona, a Republican from Dallas, had escalated the stakes by introducing a separate bill that could overhaul the whole industry's pricing structure. As part of the compromise, the committee approved a more modest version.

Carona, who chairs the committee, added an amendment tying the entire legislative package together for the votes still to come.

"We all live together or die together as these bills make their way through both chambers," Carona said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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