DALLAS -- Eighteen months ago, when John Reardon opened Deep Ellum Brewing Co., offering beers with names like DreamCrusher, he had a plan; go from small business to a bigger business.

How do you do that?

You sell your distribution rights to a large beer distributor, who can put your product on store shelves across the state.

Experts say beer distributors can pay millions for the rights to distribute a good brand. In turn, small craft brewers use that cash to power their growth.

I'm a very small, community-driven business that wants to take it to that next level, Reardon said.

But now, a proposed change in state law would strip a craft brewer's ability to sell distribution rights. It would force them to instead give those rights away to big distributors for free, possibly leaving millions on the table.

Reardon and the local owners of Peticolas and Community Brewing are speaking out.

The reality of our distribution rights being taken away from us came as an extreme shock, Reardon said. I'm talking one that was getting blindsided by Mike Tyson.

The proposed change is backed by powerful beer distributors, who have donated more than $7 million to Texas politicians since 2009. Craft beer producers have given less than $18,000.

Reardon, Whereas we have community support, they have financial support. And for those two to go head-to-head, it's an interesting thing.

The change in distribution rights is part of a compromise package that offers some benefits to small brewers, like the ability to sell beer to the public at their brewery, which they can't do now.

It was brokered by Dallas Sen. John Carona, who issued this statement: Statewide associations representing every interest group - large brewers, craft brewers, distributors, and consumers - are signators to the agreement. No one got everything they wanted, but that is the nature of compromise, and some frustration is to be expected.

But, for John Reardon, frustration doesn't begin to describe what he's feeling.

I don't think it was a bait and switch -- it was a bait and swallow, he said. Just shove it down your throat. We never saw it coming.

Gives his beer, DreamCrusher, a meaning he never intended.

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