#texas_beer_project is on a mission to help “fix Texas’ broken beer laws,” a call-to-action raised earlier this year by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and their new political action committee, CraftPAC. As an ardent craft beer enthusiast, Gabriela saw this as an opportunity for the wider data community to rally and support a cause that impacts many in Texas and beyond.

The Texas Beer Project - Fixing Texas' Broken Beer Laws
Texas Beer Project at the Houston Hackathon

The Texas Beer Project

Brewing the Project Inspiration

Independent craft breweries in Texas were dealt a hard blow in the last Texas Legislative Session with the passage of HB 3287, which required craft breweries who produced over a certain threshold of barrels of beer per year to pay the Texas wholesalers pushing for the bill what is essentially a tax on taproom sales. Despite strong opposition from craft breweries and constituents across the state, the bill was passed and signed into law.

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild, which supports and advocates for the craft beer industry in Texas, saw this as a sign that more needed to be done to rally the public and inform legislators on how and why this type of legislation has a negative impact on the community. They launched a political action committee and several effective awareness campaigns highlighting the large financial and political influence of wholesalers on passing legislation that restricts the growth and success of independent craft beer in Texas.

The Texas Beer Project - Fixing Texas' Broken Beer Laws

Many in the data community are supportive of the growth of craft beer in Texas and elsewhere, not only for personal enjoyment but also because of the industry’s positive economic impact and unifying influence on local communities throughout the country. We launched this project to support the craft beer movement in Texas, with the goal of making data around campaign finance more accessible and transparent to the public and organizations that want to shed light on how campaign contributions are tied to legislative outcomes.

Picking up Steam

Once we started discussing the project on Slack, it quickly piqued interest and support from folks interested in contributing in various ways. We launched a data project on data.world to help us organize workstreams, collaborate efficiently, and add context to our analyses so our work will be fully documented and easily replicable for anyone who wants to build on it further.

So far, we’ve had about a dozen organizations and 30–40 individuals contribute to the project in various ways, including advising on public policy, data cleaning, coding, data visualization, fundraising, marketing, and advocacy. We even had Adelbert’s Brewery and Saint Arnold Brewing Company, two members of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, provide in-kind donations for our team to enjoy while working on this project at the 2018 Houston Hackathon last month.

The Texas Beer Project - Fixing Texas' Broken Beer Laws

What’s Next on Tap?

Coming out of the hackathon, we’ve created and documented some great output and insights from the team’s work, including a schema loader for Texas Ethics Commission Data, annual trending on wholesaler contributions to specific elected officials leading up to the upcoming 2019 Texas Legislative Session, and some telling data visualizations of correlations between campaign contributions from wholesalers and voting outcomes.

The Texas Beer Project - Fixing Texas' Broken Beer Laws

We have two main goals for this project moving forward. First, we plan to refine this output into collateral to support the Texas craft brewing industry’s public awareness campaigns and policy objectives leading up to the 2019 Texas Legislative Session. Second, we want to further document and build out tools like the schema loader to help make campaign contribution data exploration easier and more equitable for other groups to also shed light on correlations between spending from major influencers and legislative outcomes in other policy areas.

If you’re interested in volunteering for this project in any capacity, check out the discussion threads on the data.world data project to learn more about the different project areas we’re focusing on, and introduce yourself there or on Slack to let us know how you’d like to get involved. Cheers!

If you are interested in this project or others like it, join us and get involved in the #texas_beer_project channel.

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