SAN ANTONIO -- Scott Metzger made what seemed like a very backward statement to a room full of craft beer lovers on Thursday night.
"I can literally sell more beer in Texas if I moved out of Texas," he said.
The statement doesn't resonate much with state's core values, but it's the truth. Customers can only enjoy beer from Metzger's Freetail Brewing Company at the brewpub. They can't find it in stores. They can't even buy a six pack at the brewpub to take home with them.
Metzger was just one of four panelists at Texas Pubic Radio's "Views & Brews" event on Thursday night.
Attendees were greeted at the door with tickets they could exchange for beer samples from Freetail and Blue Star Brewing Company. The sampling actually served as a perfect example for the night's discussion.
Per Texas law, brewpubs are not allowed to sell their beer outside the confines of their establishment. They can only give away free samples totaling no more than 24 ounces. It's just one of the laws holding Texas back from becoming the next Oregon or California in the booming microbrew revolution.
But it's not just beer being left untapped.
State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) argued that craft breweries stand to add thousands and thousands of jobs. That's why he has once again sponsored several bills aimed at changing state laws. It's change that he said is "inevitable."
It's important to understand the difference between a microbrewery and a brewpub. A microbrewery produces craft beer for distribution to bars, restaurants and retailers (Real Ale, Alamo Beer, Branchline Brewing, Ranger Creek). A brewpub produces craft brew for consumption on site (Blue Star, Freetail).
In a nut shell, House Bill 1763, 1764, 1765 and 1766 aim to expand the number of barrels a licensed brewpub is permitted to produce annually, and will also allow brewpubs to self-distribute to certain retailers and wholesalers. The legislation removes discriminatory in-state/out-of-state manufacturing language and allows craft brewers to sell their product for consumption at the actual brewery, rather than give the beer away in "free samples. Basically, the bills aim to decrease the influence of the middle man -- distributors -- and empower microbreweries and brewpubs over the sale of their own product.
Visit the Texas Craft Brewers Guild website for more information
Metzger described the legislation as a very crucial baby step. As of now, Freetail Brewery is only permitted to produce 5,000 barrel of beer a year, all of which must be sold at the brewpub. The legislation would permit him to produce up to 12,500 barrels to sell in his brewpub and also outside of his brewpub.
If the bills pass, his beer will be available in stores and bars across the state and maybe even across the country. Customers could also buy a six pack as they walk out the door of his brewpub off North Loop 1604.
More beer ultimately equals more jobs.
Metzger was proud to announce that it takes 28 of his own employees to produce as much beer as one worker at a mega brewery like Anheuser-Busch.
So what's keeping Texas lawmakers back?
Villarreal said there are two reasons: Opponents claim it's because alcohol is a dangerous substance that needs to be closely monitored, but the real reason is because distributors want a secure market where they can call all the shots.
Panelist Tim Campion, vice president of GLI Distribution, pretty much agreed with Villarreal's explanation. Unlike most distributors, Campion said he believes better beer is like a raising tide that lifts all boats.
After all, craft brew is where the industry is headed.
According to Metzger, craft brew is a $600 million industry in Texas with 59 breweries. Compared to California, where beer laws are similar to those proposed in HB 1763-1766, craft brew is a $3 billion industry with nearly 280 breweries.
"And that's where we need to go," Metzger said.
Travis Poling, a beer expert and author on the panel, said the movement to free the flow of craft beer is really only known among craft beer drinkers, like the several hundred gathered inside the Hermann Sons building on Thursday night.
"For the normal person, it doesn't really hit them until they take a tour of a microbrewery," he said.
Villarreal said he is hopeful the legislature will gain enough support in the house and senate. Although, he added, it took nearly 10 years to finally pass similar legislation to free up laws hampering Texas wineries.
"There's a movement," he said, "and you guys need to keep being a part of it."
Basically, drink more Texas craft beer.
Listen to the panel discussion on TPR's "Texas Matters" on Friday, March 1 at 12:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 2 at 6:30 a.m.; and Sunday, March 3 at 9:30 p.m. The event was sponsored by The Cove restaurant, Bicycle Heaven and Alamo Beer Company, which is in the planning stages of building a brewery near the Hays Street Bridge on the city's east side.