I live in Pennsylvania, where the folks in charge cling desperately to the last vestiges of Prohibition, with a protection racket on the side. What this means is that the state heavily regulates alcohol import and distribution. Wine and hard alcohol can only be bought from stores run by the state, and beer is largely sold through licensed distributors. (I'm not counting ordering single servings in bars/restaurants; that's a separate matter.)

I recently learned that PLCB (PA Liquor Control Board) has opinions on which beers can be sold in the state. On a recent trip out of town I had a local beer that I liked, but it's not on the approved list so I can't buy it here. This led me to wonder how PLCB decides -- is there some sort of certification they depend on, or does it depend on breweries paying a fee to sell in Pennsylvania, or what? I could find nothing on their web site that explains how these decisions are made.

How does the PLCB decide what beers I'm allowed to buy here?


2 Answers 2


Here is a link to the application for for registering beer brands As you can see on the form, there is a fee of $75 for each "beer brand". They define a "brand" as an individual beer style. No big deal if you are Miller/Coors/Bud, but a real hassle if you are a micro with a couple of dozen seasonal beers. Note that you also must list the "importing distributors with whom territorial agreements have been established". So, I can see that getting a foot in the door would be a daunting task for a small brewery. And once a brewery is established, the process starts over every time they develop a new beer.

You can thank Gifford Pichot for this mess. He was the prohibitionist governor of PA when prohibition ended, and he established the PA LCB and State Store system to "discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible." Recent efforts to reform the system keep failing because there are too many entrenched interests making money off of the status quo.


I also live in PA and am equally baffled by the PALCB regulations. If I had a dime for every time an out of stater asked me where they could buy alcohol, I could buy a brewery.

My guess would be the local beer you tried just hasn't gotten to registering in PA.

As far as opinions and rules on what beers can and can't be sold in PA, I'd think there are no official "rules", especially given the wide assortment of beer our supreme liquor overlords graciously allow us to consume. (I too could not find any set of standards for beer in PA)

If there is a vetting process, it's probably a black-box (Request goes in, ruling comes out with no hows or whys).

You can visit freemybeer.com to learn more about the restrictions in PA and learn how to contact your state representatives about changing the laws.

EDIT: Don Russell asked Francesca Chapman (PLCB's Spokeswoman) in a Daily News article. Her response: "the registration requirement helps the state assure payment of state beer taxes and helps prosecutors identify alcoholic beverages in drunk driving cases or any other types of prosecution."

Article with some good points and source of quote here

  • Do breweries have to register, then? If so, the instructions they're given might contain clues. Does the PLCB let in anybody who pays a fixed fee, or is there a vetting process, or what? This is what I'm trying to figure out. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 18:24
  • It seems breweries do as well. The application features Franchise and Manufacturer boxes to be checked at the very top. Honestly, I think the best answer is ,"Because f*** you."
    – CKrug
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 18:35

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