Three Tiers for Alcohol!

Why do we insist on doing whatever it takes to help you enjoy the Dekō cocktails you love in the comfort of your own home? Because you wouldn’t have it any other way.

In early 1919, the federal government became the most notorious party pooper in the world when it outlawed the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes” by ratifying the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Sure, it wounds terrible - and it was - but the idea of Prohibition, as it was called, wasn’t as far-fetched as it seems today.

As far back as the early 1800s, there was already a groundswell movement in the U.S. that aimed to temper or prohibit the consumption of alcohol. Massachusetts was the first state to test out a temperance law in 1828, and Maine became the first to outright prohibit alcohol in 1846. A variety of factors led to this attitude, most notably a rise in conservative forms of Christianity, which viewed saloon culture as ungodly and believed alcohol was a significant risk to the sanctity of marriage. One of the leading lobbyist groups was known as the Anti-Saloon League (worst bowling league ever). And, as is always the case, there was an economic motivation at play, as well. By the early 1900s, when assembly lines were growing in popularity, many manufacturers believed their workers would be more productive when showing up hungover and leaving early for happy hour weren’t options. 

When the 18th Amendment was finally passed, 33 states (out of 48) had already instituted their own versions of Prohibition. So, the federal government wasn’t making a bold move, so much as bringing up the rear.

We all know that denying people of their vices never quite works out as planned. Americans, ever a resourceful bunch, obviously found ways to produce, distribute, and consume alcohol despite the inherent risks involved. Bootleggers who put their necks on the line in order to produce alcohol had no trouble at all finding customers. But, where to make the exchange? With no corner liquor stores and no bars at local eateries, Americans in search of some liquid courage were forced to seek out clandestine drinking clubs known as speakeasies. 

While consuming alcohol mostly became a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way game, the high prices that consumers were willing to pay made producing and distributing alcohol a high-stakes affair, leading to corruption, violence, and, most importantly, a boatload of awesome movies and TV shows. From the perspective of government, though, the big problem was lost tax revenue. For that reason, the states convinced the federal government to about-face and, some would say, overcorrect drastically. That leads us to the three-tier alcohol distribution system.

With the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, the federal government returned to the states the power to control the sale and distribution of alcohol. While some states hung on to their Prohibition-era laws, all legalized alcohol by 1966.  Sure, that’s a great thing, especially for those of us who need to take the edge off after a long day, or a little catalyst to get us onto the dancefloor. However, for brewers, distillers, and winemakers (they need a cooler title), it means 50 different sets of laws governing the one product they manufacture. Oh, and don’t forget Washington, D.C.

In order to capitalize on their new stream of tax revenue, most states (for all intents and purposes, it’s all of them) instituted a three-tiered system that made it illegal to simultaneously serve as manufacturer/importer, distributor, and retailer. In other words, if you brew beer, you can’t distribute it or sell it to consumers. The same goes for the distributors and the retailers. Stay in your lane, as they say. That means the same case of lager is getting taxed three times, which means more revenue and oversight for state governments. In fact, in some states, the distributors and/or retailers are state-owned or state-contracted. Talk about going from one corrupt system to another. 

All this explains why you can’t walk into a liquor store in Oregon and count on finding that new bourbon you tried on your trip to Delaware. It’s also the reason you can’t go online, while lounging in your silk robe in Arizona, and ship your friend in Pennsylvania a bottle of that new tequila you just read about on Instagram. The hoops through which adult beverage companies need to jump in order to get their product into your glass are manifold, and they change every time that branded truck crosses a state border. 

But, there’s some good news. You, our dear friend, have nothing to worry about, because Dekō comes straight to your front door, no matter where you live. Now, sit back and do what FDR did when he repealed Prohibition - take a sip of your favorite cocktail (Frankie D’s was a dirty martini).