Why Can’t I Buy an Individual Bottle of Beer in Washington D.C.?

I’m just back from an exhausting five-day whirlwind trip through our Nation’s Capital where unfortunately my beer-buying opportunities were limited. Mostly because many of the craft beer stores I visited all had one major flaw in common: they didn’t sell individual 12 ounce bottles.

While most of the stores I visited had very good selections of beer I can’t find here in Maine — saw lots of Bells, Troegs, Oskar Blues, etc. that I wanted — none of the stores would let me break up a six pack for an individual bottle or even to create my own mix-a-six.

When traveling, I like to buy as many different brands of craft brew as I can — especially ones I can’t find at home — so I can try new beers, styles, breweries, etc. With limited trunk and wallet space, I’m not about to go out and buy 10 different six-packs of beer just to try new things. I would, however, buy 10 or 12 individual bottles of different beers in a heartbeat.

So why wasn’t I able to? Most of the liquor stores I’ve been to throughout New England will let you buy individual 12 oz bottles of beer (or at least from some of their stock, if not all of it) but this didn’t seem to be the case in D.C. — is it a city law that you can’t break up six packs, or just a dumb business practice? Wouldn’t it make more sense, from a business standpoint, to sell a dozen individual bottles to the I’m sure many beer-savvy travelers who come through the city with the same sentiment as I had than to lose my business all together? I don’t get it.

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  1. That’s annoying.  If you go back to D.C. and have extra time, hop across the river to Northern Virginia. There are a few Total Wine stores that have massive selections of individual beer bottles.

  2. I don’t know where you went but there are several places where you can buy anything from single Rogues to 11.2 oz bottles from De Dolle Brouwers. One such place is De Vinos, the place I recommended in Adams Morgan. Every Whole Foods Market in the city has a great selection and 80% of them are offered individually.

  3. I went to the Silver Spring Wine & Liquor on Conn Ave which everyone recommended and was the most let down. I didn’t make it to Adams Morgan unfortunately. I thought of Whole Foods (since the ones here offer singles) but the thought sort of came and went. There is a new place which is opening in downtown Silver Spring “before the end of 2009” which says it will have the best craft beer selection in Montgomery County but they weren’t open yet (next time). Unfortunately I just didn’t have the spare time I wanted to go digging through every liquor store I could find 🙁

  4. I’m glad I haven’t experienced that here on the west coast.  I’m always trying to search out the local bottle shop wherever I travel.

  5. Maybe you just didn’t find the right store.  Unless DC has some law restricting single sales as a way to stop public drinking by homeless folks.

    Whatever the case, it can be hard to find a store that sells a wide selection of craft 12oz singles.  I have one by me and I cherish it.

  6. Must be a store policy thing. You can certainly do that at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits (http://www.chevychasewine.com/).

  7. Al, it was actually specifically Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits that I was referring to in the post (I think I accidentally called it Silver Spring Wine…). Their selection itself was fine (although I’ve seen better) and they had plenty of 22 oz bombers but they wouldn’t break up any of their six packs in the coolers. It was a huge disappointment.

  8. After a quick google search I found this article from February 2009: Bottle Royale Individual-beer-sale ban hits beer snobs (not really the most ideal of article titles)  and this article from 2007:  Single-sale ban of beer, ale now affects D.C. Ward  4
    Might explain the reason.

  9. Wait, there is a fairly huge selection of single bottles at Chevy Chase, on the full wall across from the back coolers. It’s one of my favorite things to do to go make my own six pack. Do they sell things in six packs that they don’t sell in singles? I believe that they even sell some things singly that they don’t sell in six packs — a pretty full line of Bell’s, for example.

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