Craft breweries in Texas are keeping their fingers crossed in hopes of new regulations that would allow beer to-go sales.
That hope extends beyond big cities like Austin and Houston, where craft brewing culture has taken hold, into smaller rural towns like Royse City.
Terry and Cathe Gordon began operating the Thirsty Bro Brewing Company about three years ago. Since then, their corner of downtown Royse City has attracted customers from around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and beyond.
Though the Gordons have enjoyed that success, Terry says the state’s existing restrictions on breweries has limited how the brewery can sell beer out of its taproom.
He said people who visit the business from outside of Texas, on multiple occasions, have brought “growlers” – glass jugs for holding beer – to the brewery, only to be turned away.
Texas is currently the only state in the U.S. to not allow for beer to-go sales.
House Bill 1545, legislation that would allow the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to continue functioning, includes language that would more closely align Texas’ beer-to-go regulations with those found in other states. In May, the bill passed the Texas Senate.
Brewers like the Gordons, under new regulations, would still be limited to a limit of 5,000 barrels per year for beer sold out of the taproom.
The bill, if passed, would allow for more creative ways to sell beer and rid the state of licensing requirements that differentiate between breweries and “brewpubs” – restaurants that brew their own beer.
Brewpub establishments have been one way that breweries in Texas have been able to go around the state’s “Three-Tier System,” which require breweries to go through distributors to sell products.
“(This bill) is to streamline those things,” Terry Gordon said. “It’s definitely not a complete fix but it’s a big step in the right direction.”
Additionally, new beer-to-go laws could give brewers more freedom to explore their artistry.
Because all batches of beer, regardless of size, must be tested by the state or an independent lab before brewers can sell them, Terry and Cathe Gordon’s hands are sometimes tied when it comes to creativity.
The work to get a new batch of beer approved by the state, Gordon said, has taken as long as six weeks in the past.
“It stifled the ability to do new things unless you were going all out and do something large,” Cathe Gordon said. “Anybody that has a taproom would be able to go out and make a bunch of new beers because they wouldn’t have to go through that hassle.”
The brewery, which is expecting to move to a larger location in downtown Royse City as early as November, said new laws would help the brewery continue to add to the culture of the town.
“When people come in from Australia come in because they’re on a brewery tour and they come to little Royse City, that’s an impact,” Cathe Gordon said.