Back in October, a group of booze industry plaintiffs including Austin's Jester King brewery filed suit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission claiming, in part, that laws that restrict the labeling of beer and prevent brewers from telling customers where their beverages are sold are in violation of the brewers' right to free speech. Today, Judge Sam Sparks ruled partially in favor of Jester King and co-plaintiffs, not only because their arguments had merit but also because the TABC basically decided to phone it in in their response to the suit. Writes Judge Sparks:
Given this obvious public interest, it is both surprising, and unfortunate for proponents of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, that the State of Texas does not appear to have taken as much of an interest in this case as it might have.As a result, three things: craft brewers can now label their beverages according to strength, are not required to abide by the TABC definitions of "beer" and "ale," and can legally tell customers where their beers can be bought.
Judge Sparks, who acknowledges in his decision that "this Court would never be so foolish as to question the sincerity of Texans' interest in beer," called one TABC argument "almost insulting" to Texans. Specifically, the TABC seems to think that if Texans don't know the TABC's definition of "beer" or "ale," they can't understand numbers:
It may, indeed, be the case that the public is not keenly aware that the label classifications of "beer" and "ale" or "malt liquor" center on the 4% alcohol by weight mark. If this is the case, though, then the public would also be unaware of the meaning of a statement of percentage alcohol content on labels.Ultimately, writes Judge Sparks, the TABC just did not come close to doing its job defending this lawsuit, saying it "almost wholly" failed to submit evidence or respond to the breweries' arguments:
Whether this failure reflects a tactical error, laziness, an implicit concession that the Code cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny, an erroneous assumption that TABC is entitled to special treatment, or a mere oversight, the Court cannot say."We'll drink to that.
Bottoms up! [Photo: Jester King/Facebook]