Can I Ship Beer Directly to Consumers? An Overview of DtC Shipping for Breweries

Delaney McDonald | December 9, 2020

So, you’re thinking about direct-to-consumer (DtC) beer shipping. But first, what exactly do we mean when we talk about DtC beer shipping? Well, traditionally, alcohol is sold by a supplier to distributors who then sell it to retailers who then sell it to consumers. But with DtC or direct beer shipping, consumers place an order directly with the supplier that will then be shipped to that consumer’s residence.

Current beer shipping laws

According to the 21st Amendment, each state is enabled to regulate alcohol within their borders, including the sale and transportation of alcohol. Generally, beer may only be sold by licensed retailers or by local brewpubs and craft breweries, which requires the consumer to personally transport beer they buy on licensed premises. 

However, breweries are permitted to ship directly to residents in Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania (retailers and wholesalers only), Vermont, Virginia and D.C. These states don’t make special provisions for beer specifically, but instead allow shipping of beer under similar rules that permit shipping of wine.

Using the direct wine shipping market as a guide to expanding direct beer shipping 
In order to expand direct beer shipping options to more states, the wine shipping market is a good place to start. Currently 45 states allow wineries to receive and fulfill orders directly from their residents. States saw direct-to-consumer shipping as a positive, in that they could help foster their native wineries and vineyards by giving them wider access to the market, and that they wouldn’t need to rely on wholesalers picking up their products. Unfortunately for beer lovers, these actions—which have led to a $3+ billion industry in DtC wine shipping—largely did not include beer.

Why isn’t direct beer shipping as popular as direct wine shipping?

More widespread production

The production of wine is much more centralized, with the majority being made in California and the west coast. With less variety in where wine is produced, there are limited local options for consumers—creating a greater need for direct shipping. 

The beer industry however, operates differently. Beer is largely dominated by big producers like Coors and Anheuser-Busch which are universally available, negating the widespread need for direct shipping. Since every state has its own small craft breweries, a beer drinker has more local options, reducing the need to look elsewhere and use direct-to-consumer shipping.

Difference in shipping costs

Then there is the cost of direct shipping. Beer has a much lower price point than wine. While a case of wine may cost hundreds of dollars, a case of beer is unlikely to be more than $30. So it may cost as much to ship the beer as the beer itself costs; adding ten or twenty dollars for shipping wine that costs $250 may seem much more justifiable. 

So, is that a yes? Can I ship beer DtC?

Yes, you can ship beer DtC in the states that permit it. Direct beer shipping is in its infancy when compared to direct wine shipping, but there is plenty of opportunity for this market to grow. With recent temporarily lifted restrictions around alcohol shipping and purchasing in many states due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be increased momentum and demand for this option—bringing it forefront and possibly opening up more states to direct beer shipping in the future.

Take Action

For more information see our state-by-state DtC beer shipping rules.