Beer Time in Austin

Houston's microbrewer starts lobbying

The Saint Arnold brewery, and the beer that flows from its small facility, are two of the best things about Houston. So it is with some trepidation that we report that co-founder Brock Wagner is about to start lobbying Austin for a change in the state's beer-selling law, and that he is optimistic about it.

"It's a fairly small, nonthreatening change. At least it should be nonthreatening," he says. "In fact, I think it will actually help everyone in the end. I don't see any losers in this."

While such wide-eyed innocence at How A Bill Becomes Law is touching, we fear Wagner will return from the session a mauled-over, broken man mumbling incoherently about corrupt lobbyists. It's how these things usually turn out.

Local talent: Click
Here to see how some Houston celebs compare to your favorite Christmas characters.
Local talent: Click Here to see how some Houston celebs compare to your favorite Christmas characters.

Wagner and Saint Arnold want a new law that would allow them to sell beer at their brewery. Not a lot of beer, he insists -- just some six-packs for folks taking the tour, maybe some kegs for parties. Right now they can't do that; they can only sell to distributors who sell to supermarkets or liquor stores.

Wagner emphasizes his proposed law would severely limit the amount of beer Saint Arnold and the state's four other microbreweries could sell. They'd each be limited to selling 5,000 barrels a year, a figure Wagner says they'd likely never reach. Even if each sold the limit, he says, it would only amount to one-tenth of one percent of the beer sold each year in Texas.

He insists he's not looking to overturn the "three-tier" system that keeps the middlemen distributors in existence. Still, he hasn't been able to get phone calls returned from the most influential beer lobby in the state, the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas. He admits the WBDT "tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to this kind of stuff, and it's 'no.'"

Wagner is hunting for a legislator to sponsor the bill, but he won't be hiring a lobby firm. "We're on a beer budget," he says. "You're talking to the lead political operative. And let me tell you about all my experience lobbying -- there, I've already told you."

He plans to make sure legislators' aides get plenty of microbrewed beer this year, but he's being careful: "I don't want to end up in a cell next to Jack Abramoff -- I don't care how country-club they say the prison is, it's not somewhere I want to be," he says. "And these [lobbying] laws are not necessarily intuitive, so you have to make sure you don't go afoul of them."

Godspeed, Brock. We'll welcome your chewed-up carcass back to town when the session ends.

Priorities

You might have missed it, what with all the hullabaloo about the annual lighting of the city's Christmas tree, but Vince Young was in town recently with the Tennessee Titans.

We believe he won the game in spectacular fashion, if our memory serves. It might have reminded fans of how the Texans chose not to draft Young this year.

How important was all this? We checked the Houston Chronicle news archives for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the big game.

Here's how many stories or blurbs those papers had on various subjects:

War in Iraq: 42

Vince Young: 39

Iran : 14

Jesus Christ: 3

Beyoncé: 3

Global Warming: 2

We didn't read all the Chron's Vince Young stories. We just hope they covered the thing thoroughly.

Local Talent

With the approach of Christmas comes the onslaught of the Christmas-themed movies and TV specials that have been around for years. The stuff is indelibly printed on the memory: Frosty the Snowman sneaking onto the North Pole-bound freight train, Linus reciting from the Gospel of Luke, George Bailey exploding in pleasure at discovering Zuzu’s petals.

You watch enough of these things and maybe the characters start to become too familiar — like maybe they start appearing in your life year-round. If they ever do live-action remakes, Houston certainly has some folks who could act the part. Click Here to view the graphic.

 
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