Fact Check

Encyclopedia Britannica Is Not Banned in Texas, Y'All

Rumor has it the venerable encyclopedia was removed from Texas libraries because it contains a recipe for brewing beer.

Published Dec 26, 2023

 (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
The entire Encyclopedia Britannica is banned in Texas because it contains a formula for making beer at home.

Texas is known for southern hospitality, cowboy culture, and its “don’t tread on me” attitude. For more than a decade, the Lone Star State has also been rumored to be home to a ban on the Encyclopedia Britannica because within its pages is a formula for making beer at home.

Iterations of the claim have circulated for years and resurfaced most recently when the Austin, Texas, ABC affiliate KVUE repeated it as fact in March  2023 (archive).

Snopes also found the claim stated in a 2006 post on The Straight Dope Message Board. A user wrote at the time:

I was just listening to Kojo Nnamdi on the radio and he stated that the entire Encyclopedia Britannica was banned in Texas because it contained a recipe for beer. Snopes was no help, and when I googled, I found a site where people claimed it was a crock, but no definitive cites.

We’re here to correct that, and to do so, we went straight to the source.

“No, it's not true, and it never has been. It's just one of those urban myths that lives forever on the Internet,” Tom Panelas, a communication specialist for the Britannica Group, wrote Snopes in an email.

Snopes determined that the claim originated in a 1996 issue of the satirical magazine Spy, in an article titled, "God Help America," a humorous survey of what the magazine's writers deemed the "most annoying states" in the country. The relevant passage, on page 46 of the magazine, read:

Dumbest Laws: The entire Encyclopedia Britannica is banned in Texas because it contains a formula for making beer at home.  

Texans' reactions to the claim ranged from indignance to amusement. An April 22, 1996 story in the Clute, Texas, newspaper The Facts documented some of those reactions:

Over at the Clute branch of the Brazoria County Library, Head Librarian Carolyn Weatherly said she has proof that the Encyclopedia Britannica is, indeed, NOT banned in Texas, beer recipe or not. "I've checked in every place I know to check," said Weatherly, whose library carries the reference volumes.

Furthermore, Agent Donna Nix of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission office in Dickinson laughed aloud when asked whether the encyclopedia has been banned in Texas because of a recipe for making beer at home.

"I've never heard anything about that," she said. "It's not illegal to make beer for your own consumption."

There are several references to making beer in the Encyclopedia Britannica online edition, including a page titled “What are the steps in making beer?” and another that highlights “The brewing process.”

Renewed interest in the claim that the Britannica was banned may have been the result of a new Texas state law that expanded a ban on the books students can check out of school libraries. According to a report from the American Library Association, Texas saw the most attempts in 2022 to ban or restrict books of any state in the union.

But Encyclopedia Britannica was not one of those books.

PEN America, a New York-based literature and human rights nonprofit, annually compiles an index of school book bans. Snopes found no mention of Encyclopedia Britannica on the list for any state, much less in Texas.  

It remains legal in Texas to brew alcoholic beverages at home in small quantities. The American Homebrewers Association cites the 1995 Texas Statute Title 4, Chapter 109, Subchapter B, §109.21, which provides “that a license or permit is not required for the manufacture of not more than 200 gallons of wine, malt liquor, or beer.”

As the First Amendment Museum writes, “official ordinances and rules that 'ban' books are extremely difficult to make stick on any large scale in the United States because of our First Amendment rights to free speech and free press.”

Snopes often comes across rumors about banned books, which can be read in our fact check archive.

Sources

1p21.admin. “The 10 Most Absurd Laws in Texas.” Law Office of David A. Breston, 17 Oct. 2016, https://www.houston-criminalattorney.com/the-10-most-absurd-laws-in-texas-2/.

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CODE CHAPTER 109. MISCELLANEOUS REGULATORY PROVISIONS. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/AL/htm/AL.109.htm. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.

“Banned Book List: 3,362 Books Banned in 2022-2023.” PEN America, 21 Sept. 2023, https://pen.org/2023-banned-book-list/.

Banned Books Articles | Snopes.Com. https://www.snopes.com/search/banned%20books/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.

“Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Ban Books.” PEN America, 19 Sept. 2022, https://pen.org/report/banned-usa-growing-movement-to-censor-books-in-schools/.

Beer - Ales, Lagers, Stouts | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/beer/Types-of-beer. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.

COLLIS. “Censorship by the Numbers.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues, 20 Apr. 2023, https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/by-the-numbers.

---. “Censorship by the Numbers.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues, 20 Apr. 2023, https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/by-the-numbers.

“Encyclopedia Britannica Banned in Texas??” Straight Dope Message Board, 20 Feb. 2006, https://boards.straightdope.com/t/encyclopedia-britannica-banned-in-texas/345344/3.

Funny Outdated Laws in Texas – RCL Adda. https://adda.royalcapitalbd.com/funny-outdated-laws-in-texas/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.

“Here’s a Look at Some Odd Texas Laws That Are Still on the Books.” Kvue.Com, 12 Jan. 2023, https://www.kvue.com/article/news/politics/texas-legislature/odd-texas-laws-still-effect-2023/269-205aead6-1ac8-4a66-8133-b1da90e03f34.

“---.” Kvue.Com, 12 Jan. 2023, https://www.kvue.com/article/news/politics/texas-legislature/odd-texas-laws-still-effect-2023/269-205aead6-1ac8-4a66-8133-b1da90e03f34.

“How Do Books Get Banned?” First Amendment Museum, https://firstamendmentmuseum.org/how-do-books-get-banned/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.

ProPublica, Jeremy Schwartz, The Texas Tribune and. “Book Bans in Texas Spread as New State Law Takes Effect.” The Texas Tribune, 11 Oct. 2023, https://www.texastribune.org/2023/10/11/texas-library-book-bans/.

Stupid Laws : The Entire Encyclopedia Britannica Is Banned in Texas Because It Contains a Formula for Making Beer at Home. 5 Sept. 2011, https://web.archive.org/web/20110905214900/https://www.stupidlaws.com/the-entire-encyclopedia-britannica-is-banned-in-texas-because-it-contains-a-formula-for-making-beer-at-home/.

“Texas.” American Homebrewers Association, https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/homebrewing-rights/statutes/texas/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.

What Are the Steps in Making Beer? | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/question/What-are-the-steps-in-making-beer. Accessed 17 Dec. 2023.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.