The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2013

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Page 86 of 152

A LONE STAR LIFE Notes from the Mean-Eyed Cat by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle I 'm sitting in the Mean-Eyed Cat, a Johnny Cash tribute bar in Austin, contemplating the past 12 months—as well as the year ahead—in Texas alcohol culture. You'd be amazed at how beloved Cash is in Texas, a state that sports such a rich history of fantastic performers that it rarely extends such an honor to "outside" celebrities. (There is no Debbie Gibson tribute bar to be found here.) The jukebox at MeanEyed Cat plays Cash on a regular rotation with other oldie country-and-western tunes. It's beer and wine only here, which isn't that unusual for the Lone Star State, so I take a Lone Star to the back room and compose my thoughts while surrounded by portraits, pictures and concert posters of the Man in Black. What would Johnny think of the state's alcohol infrastructure? I'd like to think he'd feel hopeful, because I sure do. Let's start with beer. According to stats from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the state produces more than 133,000 barrels of craft suds a year, and it's going up because craft beers are being consumed at a pretty fast clip. We've got nearly 80 licensed craft breweries and more are coming. However, while the state's coffers receive plenty of tax cash from breweries, the legislative deck is still stacked against them because a post-Prohibition law still on the books says they can't sell their beers on their premises. Wineries can do it; why not breweries? Speaking of Texas wineries . . . I have just four words to say: Tempranillo, Viognier, Roussanne, Malbec. (Make more, please.) Finally, in the spirits world, the number of Texas distilleries continues to grow, and many of them have banded together to form the Texas Distilled Spirits Association (TDSA). Even though the TDSA doesn't include every Texas distiller, it currently boasts 16 members—which is probably a lot more than your state even has. Cheers to Paula Angerstein, founder of Paula's Texas Spirits, for tirelessly working to create the trade association in order to advance the TDSA's agenda. Among the reforms is the right to sell products directly to consumers at the distillery. (See beers, above.) The Texas legislative session is taking place this month and I just hope they modernize the state's alcohol laws. If they don't, well then—with apologies to Johnny—I've rewritten some of the lyrics to "Big River": And the tears that I cried for Texas are gonna flood you Big River/Then I'm gonna sit in the Mean-Eyed Cat until I die. 86 / the tasting panel / january 2013

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