An Open Letter to the Texas Craft Beer Industry
A lot of news has been made of the recent legislation that exited committee earlier this week regarding the Texas beer industry. I addressed the basics of these bills earlier today. While generally positive, reactions in the craft beer community have been noticeably and understandably mixed.
Some folks in more visible roles, namely a handful of brewers, have chosen to take to social media and news outlets to cry foul, to publicly lambaste -- in very broad terms, to a very malleable audience -- the legislation that arguably represents the very best option for change that the Texas craft beer consumer has ever had. Legislation that now hinges as a single piece of law. A single piece of law that breweries are now jeopardizing.
And for what? A ruling regarding distribution rights that was coming down the pipes regardless?
Photos by Joshua Justice
Up until now, Texas breweries, you have all been happy to be a part of the rising tide that lifts all ships. And let's be clear here for a moment, not every ship in this ocean is as seaworthy as the next. So before you go acting like you just circumnavigated the globe all by your lonesome, let's get a few things straight.
No one forced you to brew beer.
You signed up for this voyage and you did so with full disclosure of what was ahead. A vast majority of you joined up well after the battle lines were drawn and you knew what the odds were from day one.
If you are looking to play for the team that's an odds-on favorite, I am sure Anheuser-Busch will be happy to take you in. If you want to come out on the right side of government legislation every time, go get a job in the banking sector. This is craft beer. This is craft beer in Texas.
You are not alone.
A lot of us have been in on this fight for a very long time. I say "us" because this is a team effort. From the patrons at craft bars across Texas, the office happy hour group at Meddlesome Moth in Dallas and the guys in old lawn chairs out in front of Draught House in Austin to the homebrewers who represent the forefront of creativity and innovation in our industry. From the consumers who have demanded better beer from their retailers to grassroots organizations like Open the Taps fighting in the trenches in the capital. From journalists like Ronnie Crocker at Beer, TX who cover this industry so tirelessly and finally to the breweries that run on the innovation and the sweat and the tears of men and women like you.
So before you get on your soapbox and call down fire and brimstone, take a look down at the people you are preaching to. They are the same people who helped you build that pedestal you happen to be standing on. Those same people that would follow you to the ends of the earth because -- believe it or not -- they care about you and your product just that passionately. Your words have very powerful and far-reaching implications. So when you get up to preach, be careful with your words. Is what you are saying benefiting them, or just you?
Since you've chosen to be so cynical...
Allow me to join you down in the mire for a moment. Is your ultimate goal now to get the entire package tanked? To sink Texas's chance at viable brewpubs, on-site sales and the all-but-certain growth and revenue that entails so you can assure yourself a chance at a distribution payout before another version of 639 gets rammed through? (And don't kid yourselves, the ban on cash sales of distribution rights is coming in one way or another.)
If that is the case -- and I certainly hope for us all that it is not -- then you don't deserve any of the praise and admiration that I and so many Texans have bestowed upon you. In fact, if it is the case, do us all a favor and be honest with yourself and everyone else and just cash out now.
Up until now, we have been a team.
But now may very well be the time to pick sides. Mine is made up of those who want to fight. My team is for the brewers and the business owners and the consumers who want to see this go the distance. If you are here to cry the first time you get hit in the mouth, we don't want you. Let me rephrase: We don't need you.
In case it's not clear, SB 639 is a punch in the face. Worse yet, as it currently stands, it's a cheap shot. But it's a hit we should be -- at the very least -- proud to take. Do I need to remind you that two years ago, we didn't even make it into the ring?
SB 639 will not stop my team from fighting. I know, in fact, a few who probably welcome this new challenge. I know this will not stop my team from supporting craft beer in Texas. Please do not let it stop you either.
I'm not here to say that this package is a win-win proposition. It isn't. I'm not here to tell you that you shouldn't be angry. You should be. What I am here to say is this: This isn't just about you. This is about all of us. This is about a better way to fight.
Do not think for a second I do not empathize with you or want the very best for you and your employees. I simply want what is best for all of us more. And what's best for all of us is supporting this piece of legislation. What's best for all of us is finding constructive ways to address the flaws in SB 639. What's best for all of us is to continue this war together.
With nothing but love,
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