How To Safely Ship Beer
Helpful tips for safely packing your homebrew and craft beer, as well as deciding which shipping service to use to ship your beer.
If you’ve ever brewed your own beer, you’ve probably wondered, “How do I send this to people so they can try my beer?” If you’re a craft beer fan and you moved to a new city, you’ve probably wondered, “How do I get that great beer from my favorite hometown brewery?” I used to ask myself these questions because I share a lot of homebrew. I also moved from Cleveland to LA, and I’m always trying to get my hands on beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company. (ISO: Christmas Ale, btw!!)
I started digging around forums, blogs, and asking friends what they do when they are trying to ship beer. After searching for answers, my research lead me to the conclusion that there’s really no wrong way to ship your beer. As long as you get your bottles and cans safely from point A to point B, then you are doing it right. It’s not unlike brewing beer. There are plenty different malts, hops, and yeasts you can use to make beer, but a long as you’ve got the right supplies and follow some basic instructions, then you’ll get the results you want!
What I written below are the basic instructions for how to pack and ship your beer. Whether you are shipping 12oz cans or 750mL bottles, these instructions will help you get your homebrew and craft beer from point A to point B.
The basics you need for packaging supplies:
Corrugated cardboard box
Zip lock bags
You can find all these materials at your local Staples, Office Max, or Walmart, and they will get the job done. You can wrap your bottles and cans in bubble wrap, tape the bubble wrap together, then put your bubble-wrapped beer in a zip lock bag. Once you’ve got your beer packed up, then you can put the beer in your corrugated cardboard box. Add some padding to make sure your beers don’t shift around, and tape up your box. Apply your shipping label, and drop off your box at your local courier.
A lot of beer gets shipped this way, and I still ship some of my canned beer this way. The drawback to shipping beer with these basic materials is how well you package your beer comes down to your personal preference and comfort. Maybe you want to over protect your beer, and you use a bunch of bubble wrap. Great! Your beer will make it in one piece, but you are taking up a lot of space with bubble wrap. Maybe you want to get as many beers in a box as possible, so you use less bubble wrap. That’s fine too, but you risk your bottles or cans breaking during shipping. I’ve seen a couple beer beer review videos where a package gets opened only to have a damaged can spill all over someone’s table.
If you are looking to protect your bottles and cans a little more carefully without having to invest in a lot of different packaging material, then there are a few more options that can work really well for you:
Crafty Shipping! These are my beer shippers! I made these because I wanted packaging material custom made for shipping my 12oz bottles of homebrewed beer. These inserts work great for homebrewers who are shipping beer to family and friends, as well as judging competitions. It also works great for shipping your standard 12oz bottle size too. I sell these on my site as well as on Amazon, and of the hundreds of people who have purchased and used these shippers, every bottle has arrived safely at it’s destination.
Whale Pod and Beer Shippers. Both of these shippers are meant for shipping cans. A lot of breweries have started canning their beer, and putting those beers in 16oz cans. Both Whale Pod and Beer Shippers are great for folks who are trading beer, as well as breweries who want to ship their 16oz cans. 12oz cans are also an option for shipping with these containers. Both of these shipper options are available on their respective websites. Although I haven’t shipped cans with these products before, I’ve see a lot of people who do, and they look like they work great!
Options for Big Bottles. If you are shipping 22oz bottles (bombers), or even 750mL bottles, then there are a few specialty options for you as well. Uline has a variety of sizes for wine shippers, which should fit your 750mL bottles nicely, and if you add some extra padding, then your bombers should fit in this packaging as well. The drawback is that you need to buy 25 shippers from Uline at a time, and pay for shipping. All that can get pretty expensive when you start to add up the costs. The other option is to look for wine shippers either on Amazon, or even at a local packaging supply store. Your local liquor store may even have a wine shippers for sale that you can use for your beer.
Now that we’ve discussed how to package your beer, let’s discuss with whom to ship your brews. The three most common options people use are the Post Office, UPS, and FedEx. I’ve used all three of these options myself, so let’s dig into each service as it pertains to shipping your homebrew and craft beer.
I general, I would not recommend shipping with the Post Office. Shipping beer with USPS is strictly prohibited, and if you get caught shipping beer you can be charged with a felony. That being said, I’ve never heard of anyone getting charged with a felony from USPS for shipping beer. At most I’ve heard of people being issued warnings, but what most likely happens is that your beer will be thrown out.
The only way the Post Office will find out if you are shipping beer is if one of your bottles or cans breaks and spills over into the package. Wet boxes will be inspected and disposed of if it contains beer. Also, if you try to ship via media mail to save some money, there is a chance the post office will open your package to make sure you are actually shipping items such as books. If they find beer, then your beer will be shipped directly to the garbage or to some lucky postal worker’s fridge.
Despite the fact that I would discourage shipping beer with USPS, people still do it. I get it. USPS does have the lowest shipping rates if you are sending a package within your region. I also have a personal issue with the Post Office’s no beer policy when it comes to shipping homebrewed beer. My logic goes like this: If making homebrewed beer is legal in every state, and you don’t need a license to make homebrewed beer, then why would it be illegal to ship homebrewed beer with USPS??? Regardless of how I see this issue, the Post Office will most likely treat homebrewed beer like craft beer and dispose of it if they find you shipping beer with their service.
UPS and FedEx
For the purposes of shipping beer, UPS and FedEx are about equal with one another. UPS rates can be slightly less if shipping locally and regionally, while FedEx can be more economical if you’re shipping across the country. Whether you ship with one or the other comes down to personal preference, and most likely which courier has a location closest to you. Also, because both UPS and FedEx aren’t run by the federal government, you won’t be breaking any laws if ship beer with them. If a bottle or can breaks with UPS or FedEx, they will dispose of your package, and you will be issued a warning, but you won’t be charged with a felony. This is assuming you are only shipping beer for private use (i.e. sending beer to friends or homebrew competitions). If you are shipping beer for commercial use or monetary gain without the proper licensing, then you are breaking the law.
If you ship with either UPS or FedEx, these are the steps to follow:
Package your beer at home. If you aren’t using Crafty Shipping, Whale Pods, or Beer Shippers for you bottles or cans, then make sure you use bubble wrap, tape, and zip lock bags for your beer.
Print a shipping label at your home, and apply to your package. Make sure your dimensions and weight are accurate.
Drop the package off at your local UPS or FedEx location. If an associate asks what’s in your package, do not tell them it’s beer. Even if your are shipping homebrewed beer to a certified homebrew competition (which is legal by the way), chances are this associate won’t let you ship your package. You can tell them it’s “gifts” or “souvenirs”. These short answers are usually enough to satisfy their question.
UPS and FedEx also have flat rate boxes, so if you plan on shipping a lot of beer over a long distance, then this could be a great option to save some money on your shipping. Just make sure you follow the three steps above.
Beer on a Plane
If you are traveling and want to bring beer on your flight, then you can pack beer into your checked bag. This is completely legal, and it doesn’t matter which airline your use. When I found this out, I was shocked. I always imagined the TSA as being very strict, but if you are putting beer in your checked bag, then you are all good. This most likely has to do with wine being allowed to be checked in your luggage, and beer just piggy-backed on that trend.
If you are putting beer in your checked bag, the biggest thing you want to guarantee is that the beer are packaged safely. Use your ziplock bags, wrap them in some of your clothing, and make sure your beer is near the middle of your luggage.
I don’t ship much beer in my checked bag, but when I have, all my bottles and cans have arrived safely. I mostly don’t want to risk all my clothing getting covered in beer in case a bottle or can bursts. That being said, good packaging is your friend. Double zip lock if that makes you feel more comfortable. Your luggage will get tossed around, and be exposed to rapid elevation changes, so more packaging for your beer won’t hurt. Just make sure you are still leaving room in your luggage for other items like clothing and toiletries ;)
Ok, that’s a good chunk of info, so let’s review quickly:
Good packaging is your friend. You can never really over-protect your beer during shipping, but you can definitely under-protect your beer and risk having it spill everywhere. Find good packaging material, and protect your bottles and cans during shipping.
Use discretion when shipping your beer. Package and apply shipping labels at home before dropping your package off at UPS or FedEx. I wouldn’t recommend shipping with USPS because shipping beer with them is explicitly against the law.
Shipping beer on a plane in your checked luggage is legal. Make sure your beer is well packaged so in case a bottle or can breaks, your luggage won’t get covered in beer.
I hope all this information helps! I’ve learned all these lessons from shipping beer myself. In case I missed something, please comment below. Cheers, and happy shipping!