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Online Beer Shopping for the Holidays

Amazon Beer

Amazon's online beer section

With the winter holidays fast approaching, it’s time to stock up on the really good stuff. Unfortunately, even though we have some well provisioned Bay Area beer retailers, some of the brews you might want to give as a gift or enjoy yourself aren’t available locally. However, there are other options.

Last month, online mega-retailer Amazon unveiled Amazon Wine, a section of their site that enables consumers to rate, comment on, and shop for wine. What’s less well known about the site is that there’s also a section of it devoted to beer. 

Although some brick-and-mortar stores sell brews over the internet on sites such as BeerJobber which specialize in internet beer sales, the market has been small. Amazon’s business model is different, in that it has stepped out of role of seller and uses its site to connect a consumer looking for a particular beer with a retailer that offers it. A key component of Amazon’s user interface is that it enables you to search for a particular beer rather than looking through the stock that each retailer has. Amazon offers this new service to consumers in twelve states, including our own, and there are currently several hundred beers available. That includes legendary winter warmers that are nearly impossible to find locally, such as Great Divide’s Yeti Stout and Corsendonk's Christmas Ale.

If Amazon can make this portion of their business work, expect more beer, wine and spirit retailers to pop up on the site. In the long run, increased internet sales will help craft brewers who want to focus on specialty styles. If you don’t mind navigating a less sophisticated user interface, there’s another site offering even more choices than Amazon. RateBeer.com has an extensive list of retailers–many of them international–who ship beer to customers in states that allow it. Note that you’ll need to access individual business sites to see what stock they have, but, for example, if you’re in the market for Belgian Abbey or Trappist ales, you can readily find them by accessing the site for a retailer located in Belgium. Regardless of whether you buy from a domestic or international seller, you can usually save money on shipping by getting your beer-loving friends to go in on a larger order.