What is a Beer Distributor?

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America's beer distributors provide transportation, refrigerated storage and maintenance for beer, a perishable product, from the time it leaves a brewer or importer until it arrives at a retailer such as your neighborhood bar, restaurant or convenience store.

Distributors work within an effective state-based systemBeer Distributors...Work Within an Effective State-Based System of Alcohol Regulation

America's 3,300 beer distributors are licensed by both the state and the federal government. They source beer only from licensed importers or brewers, and they sell only to licensed retailers. Alcohol is not like toilet paper or toothpaste and is not regulated the same way as other products. Alcohol is also the subject of two constitutional amendments. State-based regulation of alcohol, which was established by the 21st Amendment, allows each state the flexibility to deal with local needs, demands and circumstances. A one-size-fits-all approach to alcohol regulation does not work. People in New York feel very differently about alcohol than those in Utah. The 21st Amendment was designed to reflect local thought on the level of regulation needed for alcohol, and beer distributors work hand-in-hand with state regulators to further the state’s different approaches to regulation.  

Contribute Significantly to the U.S. Economy

Beer distributors employ approximately 130,000 hardworking Americans who earn good wages and receive employer-provided benefits. For a breakdown of economic contributions of beer distributors by state, click here. 

Deliver the Most Variety in the World

Beer distributors secure beer from a wide variety of manufacturers small and large, domestic and international.They are the vehicle to market for the largest multinational beer brands to the smallest local craft brews. Distributors provide the infrastructure small brewers need to reach a wide network of retailers. Consumers benefit by having the choice between the largest international brands and the smallest local brews, all on the same store shelf, restaurant list and bar tap. Today, nearly 13,000 types and styles of beer are available to American consumers at a great value. 

Keep the Perishable Product Safe and Fresh

Distributor’s infrastructure includes state-of-the-art warehouses and fleets of temperature-controlled trucks and vehicles, combined with the warehousing, delivery, driver and merchandising personnel. They preserve the perishable products in a temperature controlled warehouse. Distributors then deliver customized inventory based on the requirements of each individual retailer. After delivery, the distributor continues to monitor retailer shelves, taps and keg lines to ensure consumers are receiving the freshest product.  

Create a Clear Chain of Custody

Beer distributors provide a clear chain of custody in the sale of beer. They source alcohol only from licensed brewers and importers and sell only to licensed retailers. This system helps to ensure that retailers hold the appropriate license, do not sell to those under the legal drinking age, pay state and local taxes and generally comply with local alcohol beverage laws. 

Protect Consumers

The clear chain of custody created by the state-based system of alcohol regulation and distribution protects American consumers from counterfeit and poisonous alcohol that is prevalent in many other countries. You don’t see alarming headlines like these in the U.S.

  • 40,000 Russians die annually of poisonous alcohol
  • Nearly 60% of liquor found in Chinese cities is fake
  • 125 Die in India after drinking illicit liquor

American consumers enjoy unequaled safety thanks to the state-based alcohol distribution system in which beer distributors are a critical link.

Help Collect Taxes

The same regulations that provide accountability in malt beverage sales also ensure states can efficiently collect taxes on alcohol products. Because they retain the ability to monitor the sale of the products from the time the beer leaves the brewery until it arrives at a licensed retail outlet, distributors are often best equipped to collect state taxes. For this reason, many states find it easier to collect taxes from a limited number of federally licensed beer distributors than the hundreds or thousands of retail establishments in their state that sell alcohol products.  

Promote Responsibility and Community Involvement

Beer distributors are leaders in their communities as small business owners, civic activists, parents, community leaders and philanthropists. Beer distributors play a vital role in their communities by sponsoring a vast array of programs that promote responsible consumption. The programs range from providing free taxi rides home for restaurant patrons who do not have a designated driver, to sponsoring alcohol-free after prom events and producing educational materials to help parents talk to their children about illegal underage drinking. Distributors also promote alcohol education initiatives that bring guest speakers into local schools and community centers guest speakers who have made mistakes about alcohol, but have lived to retell their story and encourage others not to make the same mistakes. Examples of these programs can be found at www.DistributorResponsibility.com.

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