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Three-tier System May Eventually See Changes

Barrels in the wine cellar, Porto, Portugal

The National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA) is an opportunity each year for alcohol regulators and drink makers to meet and talk policy. The meetings provide a platform to encourage open dialogue about challenges facing the industry and provide information to improve regulations. The US is made up of 50 states that each have their own liquor regulations, some more complicated than others. Even though each state is different, they all fall under the three-tier system (producer, distributor, and retailer).

One of the challenges brought up during the conference was alcohol tourism. Winery tourism has been popular for decades, but beer and spirit distilleries have increased in popularity recently in America. Typically, these producers will sell directly to visitors, skipping the middle tier, but lawmakers know that forbidding these sales would make it that much harder to stay in business for smaller producers. Another issue that was brought up is the internet. It allows producers to connect directly with consumers. Reports say that many small, out-of-state wineries ship directly to consumers without registering or paying for the appropriate license. It seems as though changes will eventually be made to the current system in order to keep up with the evolving US marketplace and technology.