Jester King Craft Brewery

The Greatest Gathering of Artisan Brewers in the History of the Universe, and Why It Could Never Happen in Texas

Last weekend we attended the Shelton Brothers/12% Imports Festival in Worcester, Massachusetts. The festival was an incredible, one of a kind event to say the least with an astounding array of small, artisan brewers and beers from around the world. We were honored to pour beer alongside many of the brewers who inspired us to start Jester King in the first place such as Brasserie de la Senne, Cantillon, Thiriez and Jolly Pumpkin.

In order to get a full sense of the festival’s magnanimity, you really have to read the full list of breweries in attendance:

8 Wired Brewing Co: Blenheim, New Zealand
Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren: Westvleteren, Belgium
ÆppelTreow Winery & Distillery: Burlington, WI, USA
Against the Grain: Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Masia Agullons Cervesa Artesana: Mediona, Spain
Anchorage Brewing Company: Anchorage, AK, USA
Bad Attitude Beer: Stabio, Switzerland
Baird Brewing Company: Numazu, Shizuoka, Japan
Middlemiss Brewing Co.: Auckland, New Zealand
Beer Here: Kobenhavn, Denmark
Brasserie de Blaugies: Dour-Blaugies, Belgium
Brasserie de Cazeau: Templeuve, Belgium
Brodie’s Beers: London, United Kingdom
Buxton Brewing Company: Buxton, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
Cabinet Artisanal Brewhouse: Alexandria, VA, USA
Cambridge Brewing Company: Cambridge, MA, USA
Brasserie Cantillon: Brussels, Belgium
Christoffel: Roermond, Netherlands
Celestial Meads: Anchorage, AK, USA
Cidrerie Traditionnelle du Perche: Le Theil, France
La Companiya Cervesera del Montseny: Seva, Spain
Crooked Stave: Fort Collins, CO, USA
Brouwerij De Dochter Van De Korenaar: Baarle-Hertog, Antwerp, Belgium
Brouwerij De Graal: Brakel, Belgium
Brasserie de la Senne: Brussels, Belgium
Brouwerij de Molen: Bodegraven, Netherlands
De Ranke: Wevelgem, Belgium
Bryggeriet Djævlebryg, Devil’s Brew: Copenhagen, Denmark
Dieu du Ciel!: Montreal, QC, Canada
Evil Twin Brewing: Valby, Denmark
Freigeist Bierkultur: North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Brouwerij ‘t Gaverhopke: Harelbeke, West Flanders, Belgium
Bierbrouwerij Grand-Café Emelisse: Kamperland Zeeland, Netherlands
Haandbryggeriet: Drammen, Norway
High & Mighty Beer Co.: Easthampton, MA, USA
Hill Farmstead Brewery: Greensboro Bend, VT, USA
Hobbybrouwerij Het Nest: Turnhout, Belgium
‘t Hofbrouwerijke: Beerzel, Belgium
Brouwerij Hof Ten Dormaal: Tildonk, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium
Hogan’s Cider: Alcester, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
Hopfenstark: L’Assomption, QC, Canada
Huvila & Malmgard: Malmgård, Finland
Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille: Jandrain, Belgium
Jester King Craft Brewery: Austin, TX, USA
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales: Dexter, MI, USA
Brouwerij Kerkom: Sint-Truiden, Belgium
Kissmeyer: Charlottenlund, Denmark
Les Trois Mousquetaires: Brossard, Quebec
Local Option: Chicago, IL, USA
Mahr’s: Bamberg, Germany
Midtfyns Bryghus: Broby, Denmark
Mikkeller: København, Denmark
Nøgne-Ø: Grimstad, Norway
Oliver’s Cider & Perry: Hereford, United Kingdom
Omnipollo: Stockholm, Sweden
Page 24/ Brasserie St Germain: Aix-noulette, France
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project: Somerville, MA, USA
Renaissance: Blenheim, New Zealand
Ridgeway: South Stoke, United Kingdom
St Somewhere Brewing Company: Tarpon Springs, FL, USA
Huisbrouwerij Sint Canarus: Deinze-Gottem, East Flanders, Belgium
Sixpoint Brewery: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Brouwerij Slaapmutske: Melle, Belgium
Stillwater Artisanal Ales: Baltimore, MD, USA
de Struise Brouwers: Oostvleteren, Belgium
Thiriez: Esquelbecq, France
Gueuzerie Tilquin: Rebecq-Rognon, Belgium
To Ol: Frederiksberg, Denmark
Brasserie Trois Dames:Sainte-Croix, Switzerland
Le Trou du Diable: Shawinigan Quebec, Canada
Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe: Weißenohe, Bavaria, Germany
Yeastie Boys: Wellington, New Zealand

The folks at Shelton Brothers and 12% have already said that they plan to do this again next year, and we’ve already said that we would be delighted to participate. They’re even considering the idea of taking the festival on the road, and mentioned Austin as a possible destination.

Imagine a local event, right here in Austin, where you could sample hand-crafted beers from both the world’s most highly regarded artisan brewers, and talented newcomers whose names you probably never even heard before. OK, now stop imagining and instead start planning your trip to wherever next year’s festival is going to be held, because without some serious changes to Texas law, there is absolutely no chance that it will ever come here.

In order for an event like this to take place in Texas, every individual, participating brewer, including foreign brewers, would need to pay up to $6,128 in licensing fees, fill out extensive paperwork (available only in English) and submit each of their beers that they planned to pour for label approval, along with either samples or a certified laboratory analysis, even if they had no intention of doing any future business in the State. Of the 70+ artisan producers in attendance, you could easily count on one hand the number whose products are currently available in Texas, and unless the law changes, we aren’t likely to see that number increase all that significantly anytime soon.

There’s been a good deal of focus placed on the need to change the laws prohibiting Texas production brewers from selling their products to the general public on site and preventing Texas brewpubs from distributing theirs off site, and we absolutely, wholeheartedly support the collective efforts that are being made to eliminate these restrictions. At the same time, however, we also feel that in order for Texas to develop a truly world-class artisan beer scene, in addition to supporting its local brewers and easing the path to market for small in-state start-ups, it also needs to remove the economic and regulatory barriers that seem virtually designed to deny its citizens access to world-class artisan products that happen to be made outside its borders.

To illustrate how impossible the current system is for small brewer’s both in and out of state, here’s what production breweries selling different volumes of beer in Texas pay on a per case and per barrel basis in combined excise and licensing fees, assuming equal sales of “beer” and “ale”:

Case Equiv.BarrelsCost/BarrelCost/Case Equiv.

Again, these quantities would include one-off shipments for festivals or other special events. For us, the message these numbers seem to send is that the smaller you are, the less welcome you are in our state, and that if you’re planning on selling 1,000 cases a year or less, you really have no business being here at all. As Texas craft brewers and as supporters of small business more generally, that’s not a message that we, at Jester King, feel we ought to be sending, and it’s not one that we’re willing to endorse.

If you agree with us, please consider supporting Open the Taps in their efforts not only to give Texas breweries and brewpubs the tools they need to survive and grow, but also to change the state’s regulatory climate so as to make Texas a better place for craft beer consumers—the type of place that can play host to an event like The Festival, if not next year, then at least at some point in the future.