Houston Beer Festival Finds Itself in a Sticky Situation

This weekend is the Houston Beer Festival, an event from the same organizers as last year's Houston Wine Festival, and it's not without its share of controversy.

Organizer Timothy Hudson came under fire earlier this week when it was noted by local Twitter bloodhound Kyle Nielsen that the beer festival's charity -- the Houston Wine Fest Young Leader Scholarship -- was not yet an approved 501(c)(3) charity according to the IRS.

I spoke with Hudson on Wednesday afternoon, who explained that while the charity has not yet been approved by the IRS, all of the paperwork has been submitted and a letter from the tax agency allowed him to represent the Houston Wine Fest Young Leader Scholarship as a charity while his application was in the process of being approved.

"The whole goal of the scholarship is to help provide Houston students with full tuition; I know that's a dream right now," said Hudson on the phone. "I wish the IRS would move faster."

An attorney knowledgeable in such matters verified Hudson's claim, but noted that it wasn't entirely above board to collect money for a charity that doesn't yet exist, nor represent it as a non-profit, IRS-approved charity either.

In response, Hudson said: "When the Houston Wine Fest [website] goes live at the end of June, all of the information will be up and available for those who want to apply for the scholarship. I don't know why people would think we're trying to scam them; that's not what we're trying to do."

Another sticky situation that Nielsen pointed out, however, was the selling of $130 VIP tickets that promised all-you-can-drink beer during the festival. TABC regional supervisor Vanessa Mayo verified in an email that these tickets were in violation of TABC administrative rule §45.103.

The next day, those same VIP tickets were removed the Houston Beer Festival's website, although Hudson had claimed on the phone that the tickets weren't for full drinks; rather they were good for unlimited "2-ounce samples." It was uncertain, however, whether the tickets were removed because of a TABC violation or simply because the festival ran out of the limited supply. We have a call in to Hudson and will update you if he calls us back.

Will you still be attending the Houston Beer Festival? If so, you'll have an afternoon of flip-cup and beer pong tournaments to look forward to.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Katharine Shilcutt