Have you ever wondered how that cold, refreshing beer got from your favorite brewery to your local pub? Before beer arrives in your favorite bar’s fridges and taps it actually goes through quite a journey! A journey that can be especially long and arduous for international brews.
After an international beer steps off the boat, it still has quite a bit of traveling to do before being available for purchase. It has to quickly adapt to a more closely controlled beer market than it encountered oversees. The system of beer and liquor distribution followed here in The United States is known as The Three-Tier Distribution System. In this system beer being sold commercially has to pass from the brewer, through a distributor, and finally through a retailer before being consumed. The regulations that control this system, and thus control your favorite brews can be traced back to The Prohibition Era. They are in place to both protect consumers from over-consumption and defend smaller breweries from being muscled out of the industry! They also allow the government to more efficiently tax the sale of beer and increase the final revenue derived from these taxes.
Back before The U.S. entered prohibition, brewers operated their own bars as a means of choking out competition. The only way to get a certain brand of beer was to go to their bar, which of course offered none of their competitor’s varieties. This type of competitive climate created huge barriers to entry for new potential brewers. The fact that these larger breweries owned the bars also led to a push for barkeeps to turn a blind eye to over-consumption in order to push ever-increasing sales. This played a huge role in leading to prohibition in the first place.
There are exceptions to this method of distribution however. These exception rules differ from state to state and tend to revolve around the amount of beer a brewery produces. Take our great state of Texas for example. Texas allows a brewery producing less than 75,000 bbls of beer annually to self distribute their brew. This can be vital to a brewery in the early stages as they try to make it off the ground. It allows them to gain access to the market that distributors may have denied them due to their low volume. It also allows the beer drinker more variety in their selection of beer! And a diverse beer selection is something we can all agree on.
Now that you know all about the journey your beer had to go through to get into our taps, come on in for a cold one!