So you've hit the bar scene abroad and now you're wondering how you can import your favorite foreign beer. Well we've got bad news for you, buddy! The FDA, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and local state governments make importing beer a paperwork fiasco. But, if a little form shuffling doesn't turn you off, here are a few tips that will get you started importing beer… or at least feel like you're importing beer.
To import beer, you will need:
- Application for Basic Permit
- A letter of intent with foreign suppliers
- Wholesaler’s Basic Permit
- Alcohol Dealer Registration form
- Certification/Exemption of Label/Bottle Approval application to obtain a Certificate of Label Approval for each beverage you plan to distribute
- Get your Importer's Basic Permit. If representing a licensed business, you can apply for a Federal Importer Basic Permit through the TTB that will give you the legal ability to import beer. The TTB's "importer's packet" also identifies a few forms and letters needed to legally import. These forms are listed above. If you submit all the appropriate forms and fit the TTB's bill, you'll be legally certified to import any beer that gets label approval.
- Find a store willing to order beer for you. If you're an individual, it's always possible to find a good specialty beer store willing to make special orders for you. Though it's not technically importing beer, alcohol stores have connections with state licensed beer distributors, and a good store can usually find you any beer approved by the FDA and legal for sale in your state.
- Order beer online. Again, though it's not technically importing beer, online beer stores can have access to plenty of licensed distributors that may have the brew you seek. The best thing about ordering online is that you're not limited to only what's available in your state. Do a quick search and see what you can find.
If you're a business and willing to deal with the paperwork, importing and distributing beer for the rest of us is always a charitable line of work. For everyone else, ask around, check the specialty stores and search online. While you may not actually be importing beer, you might be surprised with what you can find.