Jester King – The Change in Texas Beer Law & What it Means for Us
We believe the series of bills (SB 515-518) that recently became law represent a major step forward for beer in Texas. With time these changes will do wonders for the diversity and quality of the beer scene in our state. Our beer culture will improve with the opening of new breweries and easier avenues to commercial success for existing breweries. Ultimately, the winners are Texas beer drinkers, and for that we’re grateful.
What the law change immediately means for Jester King is that we are now able to sell beer at our brewery for on-premise consumption. Previously, when visitors came to our brewery, we sold them a tour and glassware that could be used for free samples of our beer. Now that it is legal, we will begin selling beer during our normal tasting room hours from 1 to 4pm on Saturday, June 29th. We will be closed on Saturday, June 22nd attending The Festival in Portland, Maine. We will no longer be selling a tour and glass, and then offering a fixed number of free samples. Rather, tours will be free, and our visitors are welcome to purchase whatever they would like off of our beer menu. Again, the tour is free, and there is no obligation to purchase any beer to take the tour. Our beer menu for Saturday, June 29th is pictured below.
We are very excited to be able to offer the menu above because it allows visitors to our brewery to experience a greater diversity of what we make at Jester King. Previously, there had been an odd disincentive for us to offer our most limited beers to brewery guests because doing so would have cut down on the quantities that we had available to sell. That is no longer the case, and visitors to our brewery will now be able to drink our more limited beers. Unfortunately, the new law does not give us the ability to sell beer from other breweries we like and respect, meaning that we will no longer be able to offer guest beers. Someday, we hope to be able to sell beer from other small, artisan producers alongside our own.
As a result of the new laws, we will be changing our license to a Brewpub. That is not actually as dramatic as it may sound. The change is somewhat of a formality, because it will simply allow us to sell bottles of our beer to go. We have no plans to operate a commercial kitchen, especially with excellent, wood-fired pizza being made next door to us at Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. But we are very excited about having bottle release events at our brewery. Once we have our Brewpub license, we will begin scheduling bottle release dates for our latest beers. Our first bottle release will be Viking Metal and the second will be Atrial Rubicite.
As a result of the law change, sometime this fall we will be expanding our tasting room hours. One of our arguments to the legislature was that the new laws would increase beer tourism. We are about to become more tourist friendly with expanded hours and better amenities. We are still working out the exact details, but we plan to open several days a week.
While the new laws represent major progress for Texas beer, there are some realities that we are not pleased with. There still exist exorbitant licensing fees in Texas that keep beer from small, artisan brewers out of our state. We still will not be seeing beer from Cantillon or Fantome on Texas store shelves anytime soon. We feel strongly that in order for Texas to become a truly world-class beer state, it must eliminate the massive licensing fees that keep out beer from small, artisan producers. We have written extensively on this topic before, which you can read here.
We are also not pleased with the passage of SB 639, which makes it expressly illegal for breweries to sell the right to distribute their products to wholesalers, while making it expressly legal for wholesalers to sell those same rights to one another. This law is tantamount to legalized theft, and we will join future efforts to see it overturned. For our complete commentary on SB 639, please follow this link.
Again, we are thrilled for Texas law to have changed. We were skeptical whether it would ever happen after repeated defeats in the legislature. First and foremost, we want to thank beer drinkers across the state who voiced support for the bills and gave their time and/or money to our cause. We would also like to thank Open the Taps, The Texas Craft Brewers Guild, Brock Wagner of Saint Arnold Brewing Co., Scott Meztger of Freetail Brewing Co., The Beer Alliance of Texas, and journalists who helped shed light on the injustices inherent in Texas beer law. There is still much work to be done in making Texas a better place for beer and beer drinkers, but these changes represent a dramatic, positive step forward.