They’re back and they’re ready to make some sausage. Texas legislators have once again invaded the state capitol in Austin. For those who follow this biennial pilgrimage of our esteemed leaders to the nation’s largest state capitol building, this is a time of hope, or more likely, a time to have one’s hopes crushed like grapes.
Personally, my whiskey glass is always half full. So once again I approach this legislative session with a positive belief in the virtue of mankind. Call me crazy but I believe our state’s leaders are generally good people performing a public service that nobody else would seriously consider. Are they occasionally led astray? Sure. But who isn’t? The fact of the matter is that public service is not easy, glamorous or popular but somebody has to do it. So, I am thankful to these men and women for their service.
One Senator in particular, Senator Leticia Van De Putte of San Antonio, appears to truly believe in fair play for the little guy and economic progress for the state of Texas. Just when I thought she’d given up on Texas distillers, like a pointer on a covey of quail (meant very respectfully), she has introduced and begun to champion a series of bills that could create significant opportunities for craft distilleries, and help grow the Texas economy, even as state liquor tax revenues are increased. Watching her take on the lobbyist establishment (the lions swishing their tails from the gallery) is a beauty to behold; she eats them alive.
Here’s a quick summary of those bills I believe in and why I do. If you share my sense of justice, please let your state senator or representative know how you feel. A complete list of contact information for your representatives can be found here: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx
- Ever Visit a Distillery and Leave Empty-handed? Despite our best efforts to educate, entertain, and be Texas friendly to those who visit Garrison Brothers Distillery, many visitors leave a little upset. Why? They just spent an hour and a half of their valuable vacation time learning everything about making great bourbon whiskey. Then, they come to the end of the tour to learn they can’t even buy a bottle. This is particularly frustrating to the thousands who visit our distillery from other states or countries where they can’t buy Garrison Brothers anyway?
Senate Bill 905 (Van De Putte, Carona and Eltife) and companion House Bill 1997 (Kuempel) will correct this craziness and permit craft distilleries to sell a small amount of souvenir or commemorative bottles to visitors for off-premise consumption. The bill also permits craft distilleries to sell their products as cocktails or drinks for on-premise consumption, but those of us at Garrison Brothers aren’t real interested in running a bar or lounge, so we’ll leave that to the hipsters and city-slickers in urban areas.
- If You Think You’re Drinking Good Texas Whiskey Now, Just Wait a Little While. If you have visited Garrison Brothers, you already know that we make a sweet mash that is fermented to become distiller’s beer. Well, the great state of Texas has some legendary beer makers too. Think St. Arnold’s. Think Shiner. Think Real Ale. What if they could share their beer with Texas distilleries and we could distill that beer into whiskey or schnapps? The same principle applies to Texas wines. Fermented Texas grapes can become magical brandies, cognacs and eau de vies. Imagine the possibilities! I sure am.
Senate Bill 652 (Van De Putte) would allow Texas distilleries, wineries and breweries to buy distilled spirits, wine and beer in bulk from each other thus creating entirely new and previously un-imaginable types of beverages. Though I really don’t give a shit about anything but straight bourbon, I would like to see what kinds of bourbon I could make with some of the beer from Real Ale. This bill would give me that chance.
- Want Texas Bourbon in Your Barbecue Sauce? Currently, makers of food products like candies, chocolates, barbecue sauce and chili can apply for an industrial use permit from the TABC. If they obtain this permit, they are allowed to buy distilled spirits from craft distilleries to use in their confections. The problem is: the existing TABC code prohibits craft distilleries from selling them their spirits.So, instead, they buy their bourbon from Kentucky or Tennessee. Stubbs barbecue sauce is made with Kentucky bourbon. Ever been to Chili’s? Their baby back ribs are coated with Jack Daniels barbecue sauce. Ever bought Garrison Brothers’ bourbon-filled chocolates from Chocolat in Fredericksburg and wondered why they were so outrageously expensive compared to all their other chocolates? Now you know.
Senate Bill 642 (Van De Putte) will correct this inconsistency in the code and allow Texas distilleries to sell bulk tax-paid bourbon to these fine food processing companies, thus creating an entirely new category of Texas-produced gastronomic delicacies. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
So, that provides a menu of the whiskey-related sausage currently being ground up at the Texas Capitol. If you think some of this sausage sounds pretty good, please let your legislator know how you feel.