Two of my childhood friends have started microbrewing and have a small following in their town. They were asking me if I wanted to join in since I have startup experience. I am putting together an LLC giving us all equal membership (usually how I start a new company). But are there any laws/regulations around microbrewing that will stand in our way?
We are in Texas, USA. Is taking it across state lines illegal? While we are getting the flavor out locally I'm looking at other places to try and expand to, but I don't know the laws around distributing.
I would honestly speak to a lawyer, alcohol like firearms and cigarettes are heavily moderated and there are laws to abide by much like anything really. A good friend of mine just started a bar and has his own microbrew's (brewed off site at an already accredited 3rd party microbrewery which will work with you to create your own beers), it was as simple as applying for a liquor licence and someone coming out & inspecting the premises, he was only selling it in his bar and nowhere else though.
My friends situation won't be the same as the one your friends are in, but legally distributing your own brews shouldn't be a problem if you get the appropriate licences and pay the appropriate state taxes, I would say unless this is going to be a big operation you might end up wasting money in taxes and licences all for nothing. This link here is has a list of criteria for getting a licence to start a winery or brewery in Washington State, so take it with a grain of salt but use it as a guide to kind of shed light on the situation.
Perhaps try this site:
http://homebrew.stackexchange.com/ And did you try google?
http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/government-affairs/self-distribution-laws http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/?link=AL http://www.brewtiful.com/?p=219 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alcohol_laws_of_the_United_States_by_state http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-tier_%28alcohol_distribution%29 http://www.tabc.state.tx.us/faq/general.asp
It's possible but you need the correct licenses. I suggests you contact a lawyer who can give you an estimate of the cost and feasibility.
I'm not a lawyer, but as a piece of advice: you need to be aware of all the Alcohol Franchise Laws and state laws of distribution. For example, a brewpub/restaurant can get licensing to serve, but not to distribute to retailers. Distribution and their support of your beer is the largest hurdle for a small brewery's success. If you're considering a startup in a microbrewery, you should check out Beer School by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. It's a business prospective of how they both started the successful Brooklyn Brewery beer company and all the pitfalls of the business.
I own New Republic Brewing up the road from you in College Station. We are a nano-brewery founded in 2010 and are in the process of raising private equity to expand to a 10 BBL system - a microbrewery. My answer is about five months late, so I hope you made progress.
To answer your question: there are a lot of inconvenient laws standing in your way, but all are surmountable. AFAIK Texas does not prohibit you from selling your beer out of state. However, there may be restrictions in your target state. My advice to you is concentrate on your Houston market first, there are a lot of thirsty people there.
Now for some general advice. IANAL The first decision to make is whether you want to be a brewpub or a production brewery. Brewpubs can sell directly to the consumer, but only on their premise. They may not sell into the distribution chain. Breweries must distribute their product to a retailer and cannot sell to the end consumer. Production faculties may self-distribute up to 75,000 BBL each year, however most opt for a distributor long before that.
We are a microbrewery, so much of the following applies to that route.
Talk to your city early. Houston is notorious for its lax zoning laws, but you will probably run into a myriad of code issues, water treatment the one that comes to mind first.
Find a building with (true) 3-phase power. It will open up more equipment possibilities. Ask your landlord if s/he owns interest in an establishment with a liquor license - it's illegal to rent from such a person.
Feel free to drop me an email or come up for a private tour of our small facility.