Austin hot spot for 'beer tourism' in 2017

Austin is expected to be one of the top spots in the United States for beer tourism in 2017, and some of the money those tourists spend could benefit central Texans.

With a variety of brews and what seems like a different brewery on every corner, more people are coming to Austin to get a taste of the city's craft beer.

4th Tap Brewing Cooperative opened just over a year ago. They aren't the only brewery calling the North Burnet-area home.

"There's a lot of breweries here so there's definitely some competition, but it's all still friendly," says co-founder John Stecker.

Throughout the city, you'll find more than two dozen breweries. Each with their own vibe and local product. It's one reason tourism experts are calling Austin a beer tourism hot spot in 2017.

"Austin is a fun town," says Dan Burick. He works for a malting company and gets paid to visit breweries all over the country. "Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma ... and then the rest of Texas," Burick explains.

In Austin, Burick likes what he sees. "What I think is neat about Austin is it's got a lot of these places that have live music," he says.

Locals who know the industry say Austin could soon be a world-class beer city.

"I don't know if we're there yet, but we are absolutely on the path. Within a few years I think Austin could be internationally known as a beer destination," says Stecker.

As more tourists visit the city -- be it for beer, live music or conferences -- Austin is looking at ways to make the most of tourism tax dollars.

In a presentation this week, the Visitor Impact Task Force learned how a proposed 2 percent increase in the hotel occupancy tax could fund Austin's convention center expansion. The hotel occupancy tax would be raised from 15 percent to 17 percent -- hitting the state maximum. That additional revenue generated when guests stay in hotels would be used to pay for tourism-related upgrades throughout the city without impacting many resident taxpayers.

Convention center officials tell the task force the current convention center is too small and too old to remain competitive compared to other cities. In a presentation Tuesday night, they learned the convention center lost 50 percent of potential business in FY16 due to its do its lack of availability or size.

The Austin City Council would have to approve raising Austin's hotel occupancy tax rate before the decision becomes final.

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