TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — On a cold and rainy New Year’s Eve morning in Taylor, Texas, numerous vehicles drive through downtown as a train blares its horn in the background, adding to the drowning noise of the downpour.
It’s a fitting scene for the last day of a challenging year because of the pandemic, but there’s one bright spot cheering people as they pass through.
The reflection in the window of one of Taylor’s downtown buildings is a bit blocked at the corner of Second and Main Street, where Texas Beer Company’s taproom resides. A mural muddies the view inside with a fitting metaphor for this year. The brewery’s founder Ian Davis sums it up perfectly.
“2020 is a Texas-sized dumpster fire,” he said.
His company’s year has been just that. No brewery tours, no dine-in service, and an uphill battle distributing with rights buried in a legislative mess — a bunch of bitter hops to swallow, but he and staff remain optimistic.
“Something a little bit different, off the wall like that, is a beacon and some people really vibe on that,” mural creator Cody Siegmund said of his artwork.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I’ll say this mural’s worth ten thousand words,” Davis said. “People will drive by and they’ll stop, and they’re having a tough day and they see that mural and it just makes them smile, makes them laugh. And I think if we can all kind of come together, really unite, try to come out of this stronger than we were and have a good sense of humor, we’ll make 2021 a special year and we’ll all bounce back together.”
Taylor is Siegmund’s hometown and despite the 2020 hiccup, its population has grown tremendously. Texas Beer Company moved in more than four years ago and their presence has inspired the revitalization of downtown along with the growth of two dozen locally-owned businesses that call the nearby blocks home.
“It’s been a really exciting project for downtown Taylor and we’re really honored to be an anchor tenant in this building. It’s a mixed-use project. We’ve got a coffee shop, a restaurant next door, a barbershop, and we’ve got lofts up above us,” Davis said. “We’re all working together just to try to bring back some of the vitality that used to be here.”
It’s all part of the city’s master plan project hoping to turn the town into a unique destination experience an hour outside of the Austin metro area. (You can see more of downtown Taylor, including pictures of the brewery in the slideshow at the bottom of the article).
“It’s just a great day-trip type of spot,” Siegmund said. “I know that the city planners have been kicking around the idea of kind of making this like a destination similar to Fredericksburg where people can come and just hang out for the day, get away from the city-vibe and be in a smaller town with things in close proximity.”
But all of that could be threatened.
A Texas brewery can survive?
The Taylor-based brewery is trying to stay afloat as the new year starts.
“We’ve had to adapt the taproom because a lot of folks don’t feel comfortable coming in, which is certainly understandable,” Davis said.
They’ve clung to beer-to-go sales as part of their operations, online and in-store, which many Texas breweries have done, and have been lucky to still offer 50% occupancy.
But the impacts are still felt.
“This was supposed to be a big growth year for us,” Davis said. “We’re now coming on our fourth year of distribution and to have your entire business plan just get thrown to the sidelines and having to readjust, it certainly wasn’t easy.”
2021 could, unfortunately, turn more real estate vacant around Texas.
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild, which Texas Beer Company is a part of, surveyed its members in July about the state and outlook of its craft beer industry. The results were jarring.
Two out of every three Texas craft breweries will be forced to permanently close by the end of 2021 due to the public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 and back-to-back shutdowns of on-premise business at “51% establishments.”
It states the statistics were based on survey results from 87 Texas craft breweries or approximately 40% of the guild’s operating members.
“There’s no question, around half of us are expressing very serious concern about whether or not we can survive these tough times and I would ask, just as earnestly as possible, for all those folks out there, whether you live in the Central Texas area and you can support Texas Beer Company or San Antonio or Houston, go support your local brewery. It really makes a huge difference. The economic multiplier of supporting local is three times more than supporting a nationally owned brewery.”
With a pandemic still lingering and a legislative session coming up, Texas breweries like Davis’ are hoping for change, making regulations and laws more supportive of local businesses.
“The upcoming legislative session will be important for craft brewers like us,” he said. “We’re a little small business like most other breweries out there. We don’t have a big lobbying budget, we don’t have a big corporate advertising budget, and the deck is stacked against us in our relationship with the distributors in this state. It’s just the way it’s always been, but thankfully because more brewpubs have been opening up in small towns all across the state of Texas, our state Reps and our state Senators are seeing the value that brewpubs can serve in their community to generate tax revenue, generate jobs, create a community space for folks to come together.”
Texas craft beer legislative history is full of wins and losses. The state’s guild has since created a CraftPAC to “champion common sense, 21st-century legislative reforms.” You can help their cause by donating on their webpage. Besides that, you can help in other ways:
- Buy beer-to-go directly from the brewery or enjoy one safely on the patio
- Purchase gift cards or merchandise from a local brewery
- Visit Save Texas Breweries to send a message to Governor Greg Abbott
- Keep up with #SaveTexasBeer and spread the word