The beer distribution industry is open for business! When it comes to market access, brewers and importers have more routes to market than ever before; there are thousands of independent distribution facilities.  

Before putting your company name on the side of a beer truck; partnering with a wide range of brewers and importers; working to sell beer or delivering kegs and cases of fresh beer to retailers, there are several requirements to meet to become a licensed beer distributor. America’s beer distributors are required to have both federal and state licenses, even if you only carry one brand of beer.

Federal Licenses

The first step toward starting a beer distributorship is to obtain an Employee Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is done by completing IRS Form SS-4. Detailed instructions on how to complete Form SS-4 are included in the PDF.

Once you have obtained an EIN, it is time to begin filling out permits with the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB maintains and oversees a thorough application process, which is prescribed by law, for each TTB-regulated industry. This application process ensures that those who operate a TTB-regulated business are duly qualified to do so and will conduct their operations fairly and legally. Visit the TTB website to access a tutorial on the application process.

The primary form that needs to be filled out is TTB Form 5100.24, which is also known as the Application for Basic Permit under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. The application must be completed following the instructions attached to the form; line-by-line instructions are provided separately.

View a list of TTB registered wholesalers in your state>

If the Application for Basic Permit and/or supporting documents is signed by someone other than those individuals listed in Item 9 on the application, TTB Form 5000.8 Power of Attorney, must be used.

If an individual listed on the application is a citizen of a foreign country, lived in a foreign country for more than two years (after 18 years of age) or has association with a foreign country, you must also complete TTB Form 5000.9 Personnel Questionnaire.

Your federal permit is conditioned upon compliance with the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. This act provides regulation for wholesalers on permissible sales activities. Selling beer is regulated differently than other articles of commerce. Part of the reason for the diversity of brands that exists in the beer industry are the regulations that separate the alcohol industry into independent tiers. New wholesalers are strongly urged to read and review the trade practices section of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act.

If the premises to be used for this operation are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, you should not begin construction or remodeling until you have contacted the State Historic Preservation Officer. Additional information on the TTB’s handling of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is available on the NHPA page on the TTB website.

Additionally, as a result of the Bioterrorism Act, distributors must register any facility holding food or beer with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Start the registration process on the FDA website.

State Licenses

All states require beer distributors to be licensed at the state level as well. Each state has different rules for beer distributors, and new industry members are well served by learning these rules.

View a list of state licensing bodies>

Beer distributors that hold both federal and state licenses are eligible for membership in NBWA. NBWA looks forward to working with all new distributors in growing their businesses.  

To find out if you are eligible for distributor membership, or for more information on membership in NBWA, contact the Meetings and Membership Department at 800-300-6417.