American craft beer is in the midst of a Renaissance. More than 4,000 breweries are now operating across the United States, eclipsing even pre-Prohibition numbers. But the U.S. is big, and getting your favorite beer can be tough when the brewery is on the other side of the country.
Enter the world of online craft beer ordering. Many states now allow beer shipments to go directly to consumers, so you no longer have to live next to your favorite microbrewery to get your favorite suds.
We lay out the challenges of online beer buying, and tell you about seven sites where you can order your beverage of choice.
What to Know Before You Buy
Craft beer ordering isn't hassle-free yet. Beer bottles are both heavy and fragile, so they're expensive to ship. Expect shipping costs to start at $25 to $35 for ground shipping — and remember that ground shipping means your beer will spend days in the heat or cold.
Plus, all deliveries require the signature of a person who's at least 21, so you need to send your package to a place you'll be when the beer arrives. And, of course, you're still responsible for complying with all applicable local, state, and federal laws regarding taxes and interstate alcohol sales.
What's perhaps most frustrating is that many online beer sites aren't optimized for browsing. Most sites have a keyword search, which works well if you know exactly what you want. But if you're trying to browse by category or style, sorting through all the options can be difficult. (One notable exception: CraftShack, which has a number of filters that can help you narrow your selection.)
Now that you've got the lay of the land, check out these sites for that IPA you've been missing.
7 Sites for Ordering Craft Beer
What's notable: Seattle-based Tavour sends you an email almost every day with new beers you can add to an open order. After a period of time, you ask Tavour to send your order, and it'll ship you all the beers you picked. You can also download the site's Android or iOS app to view its daily deals.
Delivery costs: Tavour's real advantage is shipping cost. You pay a $14.90 flat rate, with tax variances based on your location.
Shipping restrictions: Tavour only ships to AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, MA, NE, NM, NV, OH, OR, WA, and WI. It also ships on a schedule, rather than strictly on demand, so double check your delivery dates.
What's notable: The Beer Connect doesn't actually stock beer; it's a middleman between breweries and customers. Twenty-five states currently allow their citizens to receive craft beer shipments directly from the breweries, and if your state is lucky enough to be on the list, you can choose from hundreds of different beers shipped directly from the brewery to your door.
Delivery costs: Shipping is from the brewer's door to yours, so shipping costs will vary. Expect standard shipping rates: $25 to $35, increasing with the size of your order.
Shipping restrictions: Don't be fooled by the state selection page. While The Beer Connect lists every state except Arkansas, the beers you can buy vary based on your state and the state in which the brewery is located. Currently, The Beer Connect does not ship any beer to AR, DE, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MS, ND, NH, NJ, OK, RI, SD, TX, or UT.
What's notable: CraftShack has a wide selection of available beverages and a wide distribution area. The website also features a handy set of filters, making it easy to browse for new beers in the styles you'd like.
Delivery costs: All that convenience ain't cheap. CraftShack requires a $35 minimum order, and be prepared to pay another $25-plus for shipping.
Shipping restrictions: The site ships to every U.S. state except AK, MA, MN, NY, and UT.
What's notable: Best Damn Beer Shop (BDBS), based in San Diego, is an actual brick-and-mortar store. It ships to 30 states/districts, and San Diego locals can opt for in-store pickup or same-day delivery. The retailer also offers an assortment of beer clubs that cater to different beer tastes.
Delivery costs: BDBS claims to make no profit off shipping, so it might have lower shipping costs than competitors. But don't expect too much in the way of savings, as shipping beer is still expensive.
Shipping restrictions: The store requires a $40 minimum order. You must order at least six bottles — and you may only order in multiples of six or 12 bottles. BDBS ships to 30 states/districts: AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, MD, MI, MO, NC, NE, NM, NV, OH, OR, SC, TN, VA, VT, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
What's notable: Bring on the Beer specializes in beer from the Pacific Northwest, a very popular region for craft beer. As a bonus, the site includes RateBeer and BeerAdvocate ratings on many of its listings, saving you a trip to those sites.
Delivery costs: Shipping one to five bottles costs as much as shipping six, so order in multiples of six to optimize your shipping costs.
Shipping restrictions: Bring on the Beer ships to 35 different states/districts, but not AL, AR, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MN, MS, ND, NH, NY, PA, SD, TX, and UT.
What's notable: We featured Craft City in last year's article on beer ordering sites, but we felt it deserved another mention for its significant selection (more than 1,600 beers), the ability to browse by both brewery and by style, and shipping methods other than "ground."
Delivery costs: Craft City offers multiple shipping options. Ground will obviously be least expensive, but if you're ordering sensitive products, you might want a faster delivery option — and Craft City provides.
Shipping restrictions: Craft City added another state (Pennsylvania) since we last checked in with the site. It only ships to AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, ME, MI, MO, NC, ND, NE, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TN, VA, VT, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
What's notable: Total Wine & More carries wine, yes, but also stocks more than 2,500 beers. While the retailer doesn't ship beer, if you're lucky enough to be within driving distance of one of its 155 locations, you can order online and pick up in-store.
Delivery costs: None, but you've got to pick it up in person.
Shipping restrictions: Total Wine has locations in 20 states: AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, KY, MA, MD, MN, MO, NC, NJ, NM, NV, SC, TX, VA, WA, and WI.
Readers, have you purchased beer from any of these sites? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!