Beer to You | Where We’re at Now and How We Got Here
The headline alone may get you wondering why breweries aren’t already able to deliver direct to consumers (DtC), especially since wineries and distilleries in Texas can already do this. Although the observation seems logical, this is Texas after all. The state that time forgot. Though if Texas breweries and their fans have anything to say, this will change.
Texas still mostly operates off the archaic 3-Tier system, a system put into place after prohibition that mostly requires breweries to sell to a distributor first and not the consumer. Distributors then sell to the retail outlet, which then sells to the consumer. Yet with this, some laws have changed, and for the better.
“In 2022, the DtC beer shipping bills that were introduced [in several states] faced several challenges, including industry infighting and a concerted opposition that disparages any sale of alcohol that falls outside of the three-tier system.” The Brewers Association (the trade organization that represents the majority of the brewers in the United States) advised in a recent 2023 report on the subject.
It wasn’t until a 2011 lawsuit filed by Austin brewery Jester King and two other co-plaintiffs that breweries were able to list on their website where consumers could buy their beer, correctly label their beer regardless of the ABV (alcohol by volume), and use adjectives that described the strength of a beer. It was even later when brewpubs were allowed to distribute their beer to retail outlets without a distributor, with a limitation on barrels produced each year, and sell beer to go (2019).
What does remain completely intact in Texas, is the inability of breweries to ship their product directly to consumers the way wineries, retail outlets, and third-party apps can. Much of this has to do with the post-Prohibition laws that tied beer’s hand behind its back for so long.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
If direct-to-consumer shipping is such a sticking point, then why wasn’t this tackled sooner? “We’ve made enormous headway in the fight to modernize Texas beer laws over the last decade, but with the Texas Legislature only meeting every other year, and thousands of bills introduced each session, that progress doesn’t tend to keep pace with the realities of a modern marketplace–especially in the face of opposition from an entrenched middle tier.” Says Caroline Wallace, Executive Director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild.
In February Texas State Senator Pete Flores and State Representative Shelby Lawson filed bills SB 752 and HB 2003 respectively intending to force State liquors laws to be equally applied. If passed the bills, with backing from the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and its political action committee CraftPac, would allow Texas breweries and brewpubs to not only ship directly to consumer’s homes themselves but also use third-party apps like Drizzly to ship to consumer’s homes, as well as ship beer to consumers across Texas through third-party carries increasing sales and exposure for breweries.
“Today, we’re dealing with a reality where Texas wineries, most retailers, and third-party delivery apps all enjoy pathways to ship or deliver alcoholic beverages directly to Texas consumers while complying with state liquor laws and sales requirements. We’re fighting for Texas brewers to be able to do the same, giving Texas consumers more convenience and choice to access the products they demand directly from the small businesses who make them.” Says Wallace.
All The Stars
Much like the 2018 hit from rapper Kendrick Lamar and Sza, this story is about past successes and having the perseverance to never give up. After all, the same Brewers Association study showed that 79% of craft beer drinkers would likely purchase beer using DtC methods if they had the opportunity to have it shipped to their homes. In addition, more than 80% of craft beer drinkers are in support of DtC laws.
If changes in DtC are something you would like to see, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild asks that you sign their petition or contact your State representative and senator.
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