27 October 2010

Direct Shipping & Beer

While direct shipping for wineries could stand to see improvement, direct shipping for beer truly has a long way to go. Many states allow direct shipment of wine from a winery directly to consumers; new states are added to the list monthly. The right might be loaded with restrictions depending on the state, but, after jumping through some hoops, a winery in New Hampshire can ship its wine to directly to consumers in California.

Breweries, on the other hand, do not have the same rights. State laws for direct shipment are specifically for wineries. Even in states which are currently passing similar laws, only wineries will benefit from the changes.

The wine industry has fought hard for the rights to sell directly to consumers, at home and in other states. The first changes to the strict three tier system adopted by the states after prohibition was repealed was to allow wineries to sell directly to consumers from the winery premises only. Breweries are now starting to enjoy this privilege in almost every state.

Then came the laws allowing wineries to ship wine directly to consumers in their own state. These laws were enacted to encourage small domestic wineries, and the growth of the state’s wine industry. Those laws often did not afford out-of-state wineries the same privileges, and have since been declared unconstitutional.

Breweries have not yet benefitted from the direct shipping laws. The beer industry has long been dominated by macro breweries, and the large distributors supporting them. Small breweries have fought hard for brewpub and microbrewery legislation to allow smaller breweries to sell directly to consumers. In some states, brewers and consumers have had to fight to simply allow breweries and beer retailers (not just state run liquor stores) to sell beer higher than 6% ABV. The rise of craft brewing in the U.S. is in part due to favorable legislation at the state and federal level (reduced taxes) to allow smaller breweries to compete and sell directly to consumers.

One of the next challenges for the craft beer industry will be direct shipping. The good news is that the regulations are already being tested by the wine industry. For example, a state cannot discriminate against out-of-state producers if it allows its wineries to ship directly to consumers. I look forward to the day a Colorado brewery can also sell its beer on-line and ship to a consumer in Florida.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails