When I started Peticolas Brewing Co. in 2011, I wanted to create an honest, friendly brewery delivering world-class passion in a glass. But Texas laws haven’t made the pursuit of that dream easy for small and independent breweries like mine.
Over the years, we’ve turned down hundreds of customers enjoying a pint in our tasting room who then asked if they could buy our beer for home consumption. Unfortunately, state law requires that we send them home empty-handed.
In Texas, wineries, distilleries and brewpubs can all sell their products for take-home consumption, but the 100 or so craft breweries like mine are the beverage producers who cannot sell their products to-go. Texas is now the only state where this is the case.
Those customers we are forced to turn away, and likely many Texans reading this, may wonder why such a common-sense practice, legal in all 49 other states, would encounter any political opposition whatsoever. It’s certainly not a partisan issue. Both the state Republican and Democratic party platforms in 2018 included support for beer-to-go.
Texas ranks among the top five states in beer consumption, but 46th in breweries per-capita. This is not an accident, but the product of decades of careful political influence. You see, Texas is home to five of the 15 largest beer distributors in the country (Silver Eagle, Ben E. Keith, Glazer’s, L&F, and Andrews). Of those five distributors, only Silver Eagle and Glazer’s, both of which are members of the Beer Alliance of Texas, support beer-to-go this session.
A Nielsen Craft Beer Insights Poll in 2017 showed that consumers who enjoyed a beer directly from a brewery are then 55 percent more likely than non-brewery customers to buy that beer again in the future at retail. When a customer has a great experience at a brewery and takes home a few beers to share with family and friends, they are then more likely to purchase that product again at their neighborhood grocery stores, liquor stores or corner convenience stores. As a brewer, I place tremendous value on my retail partners, and would never dream of trying to undercut or replace them. Beer-to-go grows the entire Texas craft beer industry.
It is mind-boggling that some wholesalers spend time, money and political capital formulating plans to frustrate small brewers when Texas laws put them in such an advantageous position. Brewers are required by state law to grant Texas distributors exclusive territory rights to our beers with iron-clad protection against termination. Brewers are not allowed to collect any payment in exchange for giving wholesalers these rights, yet wholesalers are then free to sell our rights to one another. Aggressive wholesalers have gobbled up their smaller competitors and amassed tremendous economic power in the beer sector. In most Texas counties, two distributors sell nearly all beer available to consumers.
Despite wholesalers’ efforts to keep Texas alcohol laws exactly as they were following the repeal of Prohibition, greater numbers of brewers and craft beer enthusiasts can no longer be ignored. This must be the year we pass beer-to-go in Texas. The whole craft beer sector would grow.
Michael Peticolas is the founder of Peticolas Brewing Co. in Dallas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.