Study: Texas brewing industry could reach $5.6 billion by 2020

Brewers want state to loosen distribution laws


SAN ANTONIO – Scott Metzger, the CEO and founder of Freetail Brewing in San Antonio, knows a little about beer and economics, teaching the latter at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

He's combined both passions since opening Freetail in 2008 to put together studies to support his and other craft brewers' argument that Texas' laws regarding brewers and distribution are outdated and stunting economic growth.

"They were really based upon trying to prevent things that led to Prohibition from happening again, organized crime aspects and all that," said Metzger, adding that most of those laws are nearly 80 years old.

The new study reported that brew pubs and production breweries in Texas had an estimated economic impact of $608 million in 2011, despite making up just 0.7 percent of all beer consumed in the state.

"Eighty percent of all beer consumed in Texas is made by Bud or Coors, which are foreign companies," he said. "They're not even U.S. companies anymore."

He wants the state to allow brew pubs like Freetail to sell their beers off-site, as well as allow production breweries to sell their products at the tasting rooms and distribute their own products if they choose to, which is similar to other states that have large craft brewery productions like California and Oregon.

"If the laws changed and we could sell to redistributors, we would have to expand to a bigger facility, invest in capital equipment, hire more employees," he said. "Production breweries could sell at their tap rooms which could help expand future markets."

Metzger said some of their biggest opponents have been large distributors, which he has met with and is working with others to reach a common ground.

"More beer being made by Texas breweries means more beer distributors have to carry and it's more economic value to them as well," added Metzger.

He plans to release another study next year just before the legislative session begins.

In 2011, Texas Rep. Mike Villarreal, Dist. 123, authored a bill allowing brew pubs to sell off-site but the bill never got out of committee.

It's been a long battle that Metzger plans to see to the end.
"Each time we go out there they're not really failed causes because we start to chip away the established barriers put up," he said. "Informing lawmakers of what's at stake here. Educating them that the safety and well-being of Texans is not at risk by doing this and there's a lot of economic value on the table."