Craft brewers to sue Texas over beer law

Boutique brewers are angry about a new law that keeps them from making money from others who distribute their product.

DALLAS — An ever-growing number of craft brewers getting started in North Texas have jumped in because they love beer. Now — in the name of beer love — they're having to do at least one thing they hate, and that's get politically active.

Texas craft brewers used to be able to sell their valuable statewide distribution rights to giant beverage distributors. But during the last legislative session in Austin, Dallas State Sen. John Carona pushed through a law forcing the little craft brewers to simply give away their very profitable distribution rights to giant distributors.

"Calling John Carona a 'snake in the grass' might've been a little far," said John Reardon, co-founder of Deep Ellum Brewing Co.

At the time, Corona said he wanted a level playing field where neither big brewers nor little craft brewers could exact a price from a distributor for the right to sell their products.

Over a recent four-year period, records show beer distributors gave $7 million in political donations while draft brewers gave $17,000.

So angry were guys like Reardon, they held fundraisers against Corona, who was narrowly defeated in his primary race.

"When you're going to literally take away my rights, I'm not just going to sit back and take it," said brewer Michael Peticolas of Peticolas Brewing Company.

On Wednesday, Peticolas (who's also a lawyer) said he will sue the State of Texas for unfairly taking away his right to sell his distribution rights.

"I think it's not legal. That's where the distinction is," he said.

And North Texas' politically-active brewers aren't stopping there. Craft breweries can currently sell you a beer from the tap, but the hundreds of visitors on a Saturday brewery tour — or any day of the week — cannot buy any beer to-go.

"You cannot buy a six pack on these premises," Reardon said, "There aren't too many businesses in the world that aren't allowed to sell what they make to the end consumer."

To brewers, it's another Texas law that makes no sense. And yet another distraction turning their focus from something they love beer — to something they loathe — politics.


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