Maybe Texas can Get it Right, Even if BO Can’t?

Brewers predict heady times if state eases limits

  • A line of Divine Reserve No. 12 bottles run along the production line after being labeled at Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Photo: Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle
    A line of Divine Reserve No. 12 bottles run along the production line after being labeled at Saint Arnold Brewing Co.  Houston Chronicle

 

Craft brewing in Texas could add 52,000 jobs and mushroom into a $5.6 billion industry by 2020 if state lawmakers next year ease restrictions on breweries and restaurants that make beer on-site, a study prepared by the brewers claims.

That compares with the estimated $608 million economic impact that smaller, independently owned craft breweries made in 2011, according to the analysis made public Monday by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

“If you get a really vibrant industry going, with all the multiplier effects, to me it’s not unrealistic,” Brock Wagner, who founded Houston’s Saint Arnold Brewing Co. in 1994, said of the projected growth.

Wagner and other Brewers Guild members have already begun meeting with legislators and wholesaler groups ahead of the 2013 legislative session.

Directly to consumers

They are pushing for changes to the state alcohol code that would allow shipping breweries like Saint Arnold – which sell their product to wholesalers, who distribute it in turn to stores, bars and restaurants – to offer a limited amount of beer directly to consumers and allow brewpubs to package some of their beer for off-site retail sales they way they do in states with strong brewing industries.

Wagner said the changes would encourage more Texans to open breweries and help startups and established breweries alike by providing additional revenue that can be used to expand marketing efforts and reach new beer drinkers.

“Changing the laws will make many of these businesses much more viable,” he added. “If the law changes, we will change our staffing overnight – literally, add another 50 percent.”

The numbers for the Brewers Guild report were compiled and analyzed by Scott Metzger, the owner of San Antonio-based Freetail Brewing Co. and an adjunct professor of economics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He based the report on information provided by guild members.

Metzger did not include data from larger shipping breweries such as Spoetzl in Shiner or Anheuser-Busch in Houston. Rather, he restricted the analysis to businesses that produced less than 250,000 barrels’ worth of beer annually.

These breweries account for 51.2 percent of the state’s brewery jobs, Metzger said, and he predicted that number could surge over the next eight years in much the same way the Texas wine industry did after its laws were liberalized.

Opposition to similar efforts to relax the laws on breweries and brewpubs in the past have come from some of the major wholesaler groups and, last year, from Anheuser-Busch.

Booming industry

Metzger’s survey confirmed that, despite those legislative setbacks, the industry is booming in Texas. There were 78 craft breweries and brewpubs open statewide at the end of last year, up from 35 in 2007. Another 61 are in the active planning stages, he reported.

Plus, 48 percent of the guild survey respondents indicated their breweries were operating at capacity, and 92 percent said they plan expansions.

Increased competition seems only to be helping Saint Arnold, the state’s oldest and biggest craft brewery. Wagner said that over the past five years, he has increased staffing to 40 full-time employees and five part-timers – up from 18 five years ago – and begun to pay a stipend to 80 to 100 volunteers for their efforts during brewery tours and other events.

Metzger said there’s plenty of room for more growth. Nationally, the volume of craft beer sales grew by 13 percent last year, while the total beer sales volume fell 1.3 percent.

His analysis shows that Texas craft brewers produce just 0.7 percent of all beer consumed in Texas and 12.3 percent of the craft beer specifically. Craft brewers in California and Oregon make 13 percent and 16 percent of all beer consumed in their respective states.

Metzger said he would like to see Texas brewers achieve comparable overall market share and boost their share of craft beer consumed in-state to perhaps 50 percent.(Chron)

 

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