It was pretty good overall for Texas craft brewers, especially in Houston.
Texas craft brewers will close the books on 2017 having made more beer, opened more breweries and garnered more national recognition for the state than ever.
Looking ahead to 2018, Houston appears positioned to keep the party going. Commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield recently identified Harris County as second in the nation for number of breweries in planning.
Many of these newcomers are likely to be small, inviting people to walk or bicycle from nearby homes or workplaces. But at least two established local companies recently announced major expansions that should continue the trend of making breweries bona fide tourist destinations.
Such developments have craft industry leaders upbeat about the future, though they are still seething over a law change enacted last spring that they believe has hurt the value of breweries and penalizes those seeking to grow significantly.
The law now forces breweries that reach a certain size to sell and buy back their own beer before they can offer it in their taprooms, cutting into profit margins. Because the size restriction includes production totals of parent companies, brewers fear it could deter future acquisitions – not just by global giants but from other craft breweries as well.
Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, this week called the measure “nonsensical” and pledged to continue efforts to “modernize” the alcoholic beverage code.
Regardless, for the most part and in spite of a historic flood that knocked much of the Texas Gulf Coast onto its heels, it was a year of rewards and resilience for local brewers.
The trend these days is for the breweries to focus on taproom sales aimed at neighborhood customers. I’ve had a hard time keeping up with all the new construction, but I know there are more options near where I live now, and more are coming. One of those expansions mentioned above will be pretty close to my home, more of a bike ride than a walk but exactly the sort of thing that would be appealing on a warm day. Saint Arnold is building a beer garden in the space next door to their facility, which ought to be awesome. Maybe one day we’ll get our Legislature to fix the idiot anti-consumer beer laws we have in this state, but until then it’s on us to support these vibrant job (and beer) creators.