Beer-to-Go is Now Law – a Real Ale Celebration
For craft breweries across Texas, the 86th Legislative Session, and more specifically September 1st, 2019, was a turning point in history. Fueled by bills authored by Eddie Rodriguez (D – Austin) in the House and Dawn Buckingham (R – Lakeway) in the Senate, the Lege passed landmark legislation allowing production breweries to sell beer for offsite consumption from their premises. Previously, only a business with a brewpub license could sell beer for consumption off-premises and breweries could only distribute. Given that distilleries, wineries, cideries, and brewpubs could all sell to-go products on premises, it was time for a change.
Now, the average citizen enjoying the beers available at a brewery taproom can take home up to a limit of 288oz of fresh beer per day, per brewery. That equates to a case of 12 oz beers, or nine 32 oz crowlers, or any combination of crowler, bottle, or growler you can cross-multiply and divide into 288 ounces. With all new legislation comes paperwork, so you’ll need to help the brewery keep a log of how many ounces you’ve purchased, and best practice has the brewery write their name or initials on your hand so they know you’ve already purchased that day.
I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Real Ale Brewing Company, out in Blanco, Texas, for their first ever purchase of beer-to-go, which was made by Dawn Buckingham, bill author in the Senate and District 24 Senator, which covers Blanco County. She was excited to be in attendance along with representatives of the brewery, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, and Blanco mayor Martha Herden. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Senator, Mayor Herden, and owner Brad Farbstein in front of the Beer-to-Go coolers, stocked with fresh six packs of all the Real Ale beers we know and love. The good Senator picked out four six packs ranging from Fireman’s 4 Light to Rio Blanco Pale Ale and made her way to the bar to complete her purchase, after which there was much rejoicing.
I was able to chat with Real Ale‘s CFO about what the impacts of the legislation might be. He stated that for Real Ale, they see it as a net positive because about 75% of the people in their taproom are first time visitors; people on their vacations in the Hill Country and the like. That means they might be people who aren’t regular Real Ale consumers or that they’ll get some beer-to-go and share with friends who may not be familiar with the brand. Also, there aren’t any major grocery stores in Blanco so sales won’t be reduced elsewhere nearby because of taproom sales.
We mused about impacts to other brewers’ operations, such as Austin Beerworks, where it’s likely that because of their in-town location most visitors have been to the taproom multiple times and their beer is available in a multitude of stores just down the street. While the situation may be different, I’m sure they all have their own projections about the future and that it looks good no matter what.
The best part about beer-to-go for the well-seasoned beer lover like you and me is getting to take home the taproom-only beers that were previously locked behind the taproom door. For the opening day of beer-to-go, Real Ale had a killer line up of their best beers and all were available to take home in crowlers, of which the first one was sold that morning.
I was able to take home some Galactic Hans, their popular Hans Pils made with Galaxy hops, Petit Hans – a collaboration with Jester King using a mix of Petit Prince as the base and the yeast from Hans Pils, and their newly minted Beer-to-Go IPA – a hazy, juicy wonder that can sneak up on you it’s so easy to drink. I was also able to pick up a six pack of their new Brut IPA, Moon Walk, which hasn’t seen distribution in my neck of Austin yet. Also on tap were beers like Fresh Kicks and Super Soaker, both great IPAs, variants of the Mysterium Verum line up, Devil’s Backbone aged in different barrels and of course the mainstays like Fireman’s 4.
I was also able to take a quick tour of their new brewhouse. At 120 barrels and fully automated, it has given them the ability to brew with greater consistency while also having a better work-life balance. The previous 60 barrel set up had staff dumping grain from bags and brewing three shifts per day. Now, they aren’t at full capacity (yet!), can take some time off, and don’t have as much heavy lifting. It was cool to see the new brewhouse after visiting for my last tour in 2008. The size of their operation has grown incredibly, which is a testament to the quality of their beer and brand.
Now that Beer-to-Go is a reality in Texas, it brings it to all 50 states where you can buy beer-to-go at the brewery. Of course, this is not without its limits. Each brewery is only allowed to sell 5,000 barrels of beer per year to-go from the taproom but that equates to north of 69,000 cases of beer, so shouldn’t be an issue. I for one, will be celebrating with a crowler and a six pack of something special bought from the source.