How and Where to Buy Beer Online

Ask the Beer Geek by | Aug 2008 | Issue #19

I need your help. While I can find plenty of good beers locally, it’s really hard for me to find most of the beers people are talking about on BeerAdvocate, especially the rarer stuff and Belgian imports. I’m not into the whole beer-trading thing either. It’s driving me crazy! Can you recommend anywhere online that sells and ships beer direct? —Thanks, Brad

Don’t strap on that straitjacket just yet, Brad. There are quite a few establishments that offer websites where you can browse, buy, and get beer shipped directly to your house. However, before I weed through the worthy and not so worthy and provide you my personal recommendations on where to shop for brew, make sure you take the following tips into consideration. If you don’t, you might be very disappointed.

Tips for Buying Beer Online
Are you 21-plus? Most smart companies will require an adult signature from someone who is 21 or over.

Shipping restrictions: Check before you buy! Depending on where the company is shipping from, there will most likely be restrictions—which are all over the place and often make no sense—as to where they can ship.

Shipping rates: Watch those rates. It’s sometimes cost-efficient to buy multiple beers versus the odd one or two now and then. I recommend checking their shipping rates and figuring out where the sweet spot is, and then waiting until you’ve created a larger order.

Compare prices: It’s common sense, but don’t buy at the first shop you browse. Compare the pricing between multiple sites, and go with the one you’re most comfortable with.

eBay: Don’t bother with it, or with other individuals selling beer online. You’ll most likely get ripped off.

Where to Buy
While there are probably hundreds of places to buy beers direct, including several breweries (depending on where you live), here’s a filtered list of some of the more popular virtual beer stores.
No frills, but they boast a massive worldwide selection with plenty of craft brews from the US—broken down into easy categories. Not so up-to-date on the new releases though.
The selection isn’t massive, but it’s obviously carefully hand-picked with a focus on special brews and offerings from the West Coast and Northwest regions.
Hard to navigate, hard to find what you want, and hard on the eyes, but they offer over 1,000 beers from over 25 countries.
Browse over 700 beers from 30-plus countries by style, country or beer name. It’s easy to move around and view the impressive lineup of brews, with plenty from Belgium and the US.
Took me a second to figure out that “The Wall of Beer” was their sole listing, but when you hit the list of nearly 800 offerings, you’ll be glad you did—just be prepared to scroll around a lot.
Though it’s 100-percent Belgian in its focus and their selection is priced in euros (they accept US dollars), this is hands-down one of the best shops for beer on the web. Most beers have brief descriptions to in-depth backgrounds, and they take requests if you can’t find a particular beer.
This chain retailer offers what’s arguably the largest selection of beer online. Over 1,800 beers! It’s a bit overwhelming, but chances are they have what you’re looking for. The navigation is a bit clunky though, and it’s easy to get lost.
This is another major source for all beers Belgian that offers quite a few special brews. They also offer special discounts for repeat buyers.

I hope that helps, Brad. I also recommend visiting Beer 101 on BeerAdvocate for more info. For those of you reading this who have some online shopping experience, please send me your recommendations for other worthy online beer stores. Cheers, and happy shopping!