Entrusting your beer to the American postal service can be a scary task. For one, you need to know how to pack your craft beer properly so it reaches its destination safely. For another, you have to research if you even can ship your craft beer inside the US or internationally.
Shipping a keg is one thing. After all, kegs are virtually indestructible, but if you want to send individual brewed beer or a case of it, you’ll need to take the proper precautions.
Understand the Rules for Shipping Beer
It isn’t illegal to ship beer in the US, but you’re required to have a permit and paperwork to do it. If you’re starting a brewery, apply for a license immediately. Otherwise, you’ll have to tell the post office that you’re shipping something other than beer, like snow globes or yeast samples.
We strongly recommend not using USPS to send beer. The USPS considers sending alcohol a crime, and they may press charges if they open up your package and discover craft beer.
FedEx and UPS have restrictions for sending beer, but they won’t press charges if they open your package. The worst that will happen is your package is sent back to the filament center for pick up. They’ll also reject your beer shipment if you tell the clerk what you’re sending.
Choose Your Container Wisely
Although glass bottles and aluminum cans look the best, especially when branded, you may want to consider shipping plastic bottles for now. If you’ve already bottled your beer and you really want to send it, you’ll have to be careful when packing the cardboard/shipping box.
We recommend cutting the hassle and using plastic water bottles with a sealed cap. That way, a small dent or puncture in the bottle won’t make the package explode, leak, or get spotted.
Regardless of what bottle you’re using, make sure you fill the liquid all the way to the top. If the post office hears “swishing” or bubbles “gurgling,” they’ll probably open up your package.
Use Tape, Plastic Bags, and Bubble Wrap
No extra safety precaution is wasted when packing beer, so even if the lid is screwed on tight or the cap is tapped, it’s vital that you wrap tape around the spout. Electrical tape can offer that middle ground between safety and security during shipment and easy removal after the fact.
After securing the lids, put each individual bottle in plastic bags. You can use small garbage bags or Ziploc bags to protect the rest of your shipment if one bottle bursts. Squeeze as much air out of the plastic bag as possible before sealing it, so pressure doesn’t split the bag.
Finally, take a bit of bubble wrap and roll it around the entire bottle. Make sure the top, bottom, and sides are completely covered. Use a rubber band to hold the bubble wrap in place.
Prepare Your Cardboard Box
When purchasing your shipment boxes, make sure it’s large enough to fit your beer and small enough to prevent constant knocking, wobbling, and movement. Choose a sturdy brand that won’t collapse after another box sits on top of it. Use two boxes for extra security.
Place bottle-specific padding in the box if you want your beer to stand straight up. It’ll have small grooves that let you place your bottles inside. You can also use large egg cartons to rest the beer bottles on their sides. You can use newspapers to fill in the gaps if there are any.
Write “Fragile Content” at the side of each box. While it doesn’t guarantee that your package won’t be mishandled, it will make a difference in how the shipping company stores the box.
Pack the Beer Carefully
Lay your bottles or cans parallel to one another and put extra bubble wrap or newspaper in between them. When everything is inside, add more bubble wrap and newspaper on the top of the package, or put the same padding piece as you did below the bottles above them.
Close the box and shake the box lightly. Do you hear anything rattling inside? If you do, open the box and position your bottles or the stuffing more carefully. Seal the box with packing tape once you no longer hear anything moving inside. The more tape, the better.
Consider Shipping Costs
Bottles of beer are pretty heavy, and once you factor in the weight of the extra packing supplies, your box of craft beer may cost a lot to ship. Most couriers won’t use weight thresholds and offer a flat shipping fee, so you may pay more than it costs to make the beer if you aren’t careful.
To keep costs slow, ship 4-6 beers at a time. Packs of beer often come in 4s and 6s anyway, meaning you’ll have a valid reason to avoid stuffing the cardboard box full of alcohol.