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.
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.