Alcohol brings cash, brews state support for political leaders

Gerald Rich

The weekly drink column “Thirsty Thursday” is back, but before we bust out the champagne, let’s grab a stiff drink and be honest.

Over the past year, I’ve written historical and scientific anecdotes on everything from Ernest Hemingway’s drinking habits to brewing moonshine. But there’s been one nagging, omnipresent story that’s been neglected: alcohol is in the blood of Texas’ economy. It flows through dozens of counties and supports our entire infrastructure.

In a less metaphorical sense, beer contributes over $19 billion to our economy and generates more than 146,000 jobs, according to a recent study by The National Beer Wholesalers Association and The Beer Institute.

Add in The Texas Tribune’s tabulation from a mid-February article that said special interest beer groups have given legislators and Gov. Rick Perry a total of $2.5 million in campaign contributions since 2001, and there’s no denying that alcohol is in Texas’ blood.

But that’s just economics and politics. In terms of measurable booze, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission tallied up that Texans drank a combined total of 59,076,410 gallons of alcohol in the month of May. That’s roughly 2.32 gallons for every man, woman and child (figuratively speaking), making it one of the most widely distributed and decriminalized intoxicating substances.

So for the summer, instead of following the money, we’re going to follow the alcohol with “Thirsty Thursday Investigates.” The Daily Texan’s new bi-monthly articles and mini-documentaries on Texas’ alcohol network will be kicking off our first series on underage drinking with the fake ID market.

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