How Texas' new beer laws are changing the local craft beer scene: Everything you need to know
After years of industry lobbying in advance, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed five beer-related bills and Gov. Rick Perry signed them into law last Friday, signaling a sea change in the way Texas' craft brewers package and sell beers.
But what you really care about is how the new legislation will affect your weekend visits to Houston's finest breweries. Here's what you need to know:
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Texas' oldest craft brewery was also perhaps the most vociferous in making Texas legislative changes. The new laws won't affect tours (beginning at 3 p.m. on weekdays and running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays for $8 per person) or lunches: Tokens will still be included in the price of the former, and diners will be able to continue washing down chef Ryan Savoie's lunch offerings with complimentary brews.
However, the brewery does plan to sell special and limited edition beers by the pint. Tuesday's 3 p.m. tour marked the first time in 19 years that Saint Arnold sold beer — the Bishop's Barrel No. 3 — directly to its consumers.
"We intend to always have one special beer on tap," founder and brewer Brock Wagner said in a statement. "It may be a cask conditioned Endeavor, a special release cask or, if you're lucky, a Divine Reserve."
8th Wonder Brewery
The Eatsie Boys-owned operation were supporters of Open the Taps, a grassroots craft beer advocacy group, throughout the legislative process, and the owners plan to continue exclusively hosting tours ($5 each Saturday) until their EaDo warehouse has "a proper tasting room set up and system in place." They hope to offer both tours and on-site pint sales in the future.
While co-owner Ryan Soroka applauds the new legislation's "positive impact on Texas brewers and, most importantly, Texas beer drinkers," the laws still forbid craft brewers from selling beer to-go directly to consumers (in growlers or cans) and prevent 8th Wonder from carrying its brews at its associated Eatsie Boys Cafe on Montrose.
No Label Brewing Co.
The Katy-based brewer says that it will "more than likely" begin hosting Friday afternoon happy hours at the brewery sometime in July, and has plans to sell pints to customers then.
Weekly tours and tastings, held between noon and 3 p.m. each Saturday, will continue to be conducted on an admission-and-token basis. Guests 21 and up receive four tokens for $5.
Town in City Brewing Company
Visitors will be able to purchase pints and pitchers to enjoy on-site in the garden of Town in City once it's up and running on Cavalcade Street. Although still in the permitting stages, co-owner and brewer Justin Engle looks forward to interacting with the local community.
"Unlike bars, we will have limited operating hours and will not be open as late as a typical bar," says Engle, who incorporated a tasting room into the building's design in hopes that the Texas laws would change.
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company
Owner Rassul Zarinfar tells CultureMap that the brewery implemented a new system for the first time during last weekend's tour, one that he described to beer blogger Ronnie Crocker as a change from the $10 tour including a glass and five 5-ounce samples to a glass and four half-pint pours instead, with the option of purchasing additional pints or half-pints on top of that.
"We are throwing a huge party this coming Saturday to celebrate the new rules and are debuting 1836 on Nitro and some other cool things," Zarinfar says. Buffalo Bayou is open each Saturday from noon to 3 p.m., but attendees should RSVP in advance for one of the 100 available spots.
Karbach Brewing Co.
Currently in the midst of a rapid expansion, Karbach owner Ken Goodman told Crocker that "it's not a good time to add on-site retail operations." Continue to expect brewery tours on Mondays and Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m., with admission starting at $7.
Southern Star Brewing Company
No word back from Southern Star, which offers tastings and tours each Saturday at its Conroe brewery. No reservation is required for those free events, which includes four 10-ounce samples.