Craft Beer Austin has partnered with the Texas Craft Brewers Guild to expand on #BehindTheBeer with a series of articles featuring each highlighted Guild member.
Historic legislation was signed into law by Governor Abbot allowing #BeerToGo sales for over 100 Texas brewers starting on September 1st of this year. Although the result was due to the efforts of many dedicated folks, I would like to highlight the team at the Texas Craft Brewers Guild that worked tirelessly to help get the legislation across the finish line.
For this installment, meet Executive Director Charles Vallhonrat.
Tell us just a little bit about what your day-to-day looks like:
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild is a trade association that represents small and independent breweries in the state of Texas. We have nearly 300 brewery members (including operating and in-planning breweries) and approximately 150 Allied Trade and Retail members. We advocate for Texas craft breweries both on a legislative and regulatory basis either at the Texas Capitol or with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. We also provide education and communication opportunities for our members so that we can continuously improve the overall craft beer market for our members. And then, there’s the festival. The Texas Craft Brewers Festival is the largest celebration of craft beer produced exclusively in Texas. It’s hard to nail down a typical day. Hell, it’s hard to say what city I will be in on a typical day. I am often in Austin meeting with our lobbyists, dropping by Guild members’ breweries, running board of directors meetings, or planning the festival. When I am working from my home office in Cypress, TX, there’s a lot of emails and phone calls. If I am showered by 2 PM, it means it’s a light day.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
When I get to visit a brewery and get a tour from someone so excited about just opening, or adding new equipment, or releasing a new beer that they really think is special. I truly enjoy the excitement and pride I see when brewers are talking about what they’ve accomplished in their breweries. It is amazing and gratifying to me that so many independent, entrepreneur-led businesses can work together to strengthen an industry.
What did you do before you started working for the Guild? What brought you to the Guild?
I have a computer science degree and an MBA, which led me to work for Compaq/HP for far too many years. I held a number of different positions at Compaq/HP, but they primarily focused on pricing and product marketing across a lot of product lines (desktops, workstations, network attached storage, storage area networks, and storage networking). Looking at those gigs now mostly looks like rearranging the same words into different phrases, but they were actually distinct product lines with different market needs.
Almost the entire time I was working at Compaq/HP, I was also homebrewing. When an opportunity came to retire from HP (I only qualified because I started working there when I was a little over 12 years old – small exaggeration – and I qualified on years of service, not age), I jumped at it. When I was looking for the next step, I saw that Brock Wagner was hosting the search committee for the newly formed executive director position for the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. I reached out to Brock, whom I knew because a beer I brewed a beer that won a competition and became a seasonal at Saint Arnold. I went through the interview process and got the offer. I was “retired” for about 10 days.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of today’s craft beer climate what would you say?
Well, specifically for Texas, if previous alcoholic beverage code changes are any indication, we are about to see a good uptick in breweries and overall production across the state. The upcoming changes from the TABC Sunset bill, including the Beer-To-Go component, should bring some interesting opportunities. The industry overall is strong in Texas and the cooperative attitude of our members is fantastic.
What beer are you currently enjoying the most?
I never talk about specific beers in my job – I don’t want to get any noses bent out of shape. But, I do talk about styles I am gaining an appreciation for. I currently really enjoy finding new Saisons to try. I am an IPA fan from way back (we’re talking early 90s back), but I didn’t appreciate Belgian styles for many years. That was a mistake. Now, I enjoy finding Saison variants and I appreciate the variety they offer.
To keep up with the #BehindTheBeer series on Instagram, simply follow the hashtag and follow the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. If you are a member of the Guild and would like to participate in this series, please check the latest Guild newsletter for details.