We Can Sell Our Beer in Texas, but We Can't Tell You Where


The last time I wrote about Texas beer regulations, I noted a rule that helps big brewers fend off competition from local brewpubs, which are forbidden to sell their products via retailers or wholesalers. Today a reader called my attention to another arbitrary restriction that also hurts smaller brewers: According to the website of Colorado's New Belgium Brewing (which makes a nice, reasonably priced Abbey Ale and Trippel), "we are not allowed to show beer locations inside the state of Texas due to regulations by the Texas Alcohol[ic] Beverage Commission." Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery (which makes an excellent 90-Minute IPA and Indian Brown Ale) similarly advises website visitors looking for Texas retailers who carry the company's products:

Sorry Texans, we've been informed by the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission that it is illegal to list retail outlets in the Lone Star State on our Fish Finder. Even though we continue to sell Dogfish beers in Texas, we cannot tell you where. 

But California's Pyramid Breweries (which makes a nice Hefeweizen and IPA) apparently did not get the memo. The company's "Global Pint Seeker" illegally displays a map of bars and retailers in Dallas where you can buy its beer. 

This rule hardly inconveniences the huge beer companies that dominate the market, since you can find their products pretty much anywhere. It's the smaller companies making interesting, less widely available beers that really suffer from such censorship. The only exception is…Texas brewpubs, which are allowed to tell people where they are, even though they sell their beer for home consumption.

Addendum: Commenter Nicholas Sarwak points us to the relevant FAQ on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's website:

If a manufacturer's product is only carried in a limited number of stores, can the manufacturer or wholesaler include in an advertisement a list of all the stores that carry their product? 

Yes, if it is a winery. Otherwise, no. This type of advertisement by any supplier or wholesaler other than the holder of a winery permit would be a violation of the Alcoholic Beverage Code Sections 102.07, 108.05 and 16 TAC 45.110. Section 108.09 of the Code authorizes a winery to engage in this activity.

The regulations are here (PDF). The context indicates that the original rationale was to prevent "tied houses" and similar arrangements in which breweries controlled taverns or taverns agreed to carry one brand of beer exclusively. Hence a rule that was supposed to discourage monopolies has become anti-competitive. 

[Thanks to Daniel Bryce for the tip.]