After announcing my beer of the month club reviews, a few readers asked me whether the clubs would ship to their state. I admit, I was stumped.
So I brought in an expert.
Rick Boyd is the owner of Brewforia, a craft beer store in Meridian, Idaho. Brewforia also sells beer online, so I asked Rick if he would help me out in understanding the beer shipping laws.
Even the most casual observer is aware of the revolution in brewing that is taking place. In the past five years, hundreds of breweries have opened in every region of the country and these new brewers are challenging the status quo by producing beers like the world has never seen. So how does someone who lives in Nashville, TN get their hands on a bottle of T.R.E.A.T. Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter from Midnight Sun Brewing in Alaska? Let me tell you, it’s not easy.
We’re very accustomed in this country to heading down to the local store and buying whatever product we want. Pretty much no matter where you live you can buy the latest electronics or fashions, enjoy the latest movies or music and even some of the most exotic ethnic cuisines, but it’s not that simple with beer. Thanks to the extremely limited brewing capacity of craft brewers and the antiquated laws regulating the sale of alcohol, getting a bottle of some of the rarest and most interesting craft beers is almost impossible. That said, there is one place you can turn – the internet.
With the Granholm vs Heald ruling, the Supreme Court made it possible for people order alcohol, specifically wine online and have it shipped direct to their homes. Since this ruling, a handful of retailers have started offering selections of craft beer for sale online. The internet is really the craft brewers best chance to get their beer into as many different hands possible since it doesn’t require any expansion of brewing capacity or restrictive distribution contracts. Expect to see online beer sales grow rapidly and possibly overtake wine sales by volume in the years to come.
What you need to know when ordering beer online:
- What are the laws in your state: Not every state permits shipments of alcohol to residents so if you live in PA, TX, MA, UT, MD, DE, AR, OK, MT, ME, SD, KY, AK, HI, WV or MS then you can’t have alcohol of any kind delivered to you. There are companies out there that do not adhere to or are not aware of laws from state to state and may be shipping to residents of these states which could land them and possibly even the resident in legal trouble. Even states that do permit shipments of alcohol to residents have certain legal restrictions and requirements that must be met. Some states don’t allow anything with an alcohol content greater than a set percentage and many others put a monthly or annual limit on the amount of alcohol a person or household can receive from out of state retailers.
- Who can ship: There are only two legal ways to ship alcohol in the United States. A retailer must be licensed to sell alcohol by a state that permits shipments in and out of that state and must have an alcohol shippers contract with either UPS or FedEx. The US Postal Service does not permit shipments of alcohol. It is illegal for a non-licensed individual to ship alcohol.
- Signing for the order: When you buy alcohol online the package should ship with a sticker on each box identifying it as containing alcohol and when either UPS or FedEx show up with the packages there will have to be someone over 21 years of age to sign for receipt of the order. If you think about it, this makes sense otherwise minors might end up in possession of product they shouldn’t have. UPS and FedEx charge each retailer several dollars per box to collect this signature and if by the third attempt no one has been available to sign for the package it is sent back to the retailer.
- Cost: Beer is heavy so its going to be somewhat expensive to ship it so be prepared to spend at least what it cost for the beer. A little trick is the more you order typically the less the cost. If you order a case (24 bottles) you can get the shipping cost down as a percentage of each bottle.
So with all these hoops to jump through and additional expense why should you be considering buying beer online? Well, frankly it’s about the only way you’re ever going to be able to get that special bottle from that tiny brewery on the other side of the country. So if you take your beer seriously and want to try the best the world has to offer, it’s all just a few mouse clicks away.
If you’re one of those unfortunate souls that lives in a state that doesn’t currently permit alcohol shipments to its residents, then you need to be vocal. Call your state representatives and tell them that they should support consumer choice and allow you to buy the products you want. We here at Brewforia.com are also working on getting these states to open their doors to shipping, but we can’t do it without people in those states demanding it.
Billy’s note: If you’re wondering about beer trades or shipping homebrew, I do both frequently. Just make sure you use UPS or FedEX and not the USPS. This topic (including how to package your beer for shipping) was covered very well on Jamey Barlow’s blog, so check it out.