Gowanus Brewery

How to Ship and Package Beer by Jeremy
December 11, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: beer, shipping

This year, as I mentioned in a previous post, I plan on giving the gift of beer. Of course, it’s not just beer. It’s some of my homemade, handcrafted brew. I have plenty of the California Imperial Pale Ale set aside and the Chinook IPA–recently named Chinook Me (All Night Long) IPA–should be just about ready to drink come Christmas evening. For my buddies in town, I’ll just stop by and deliver those in person. For friends and family back in California, I’m going to have to ship it. Below is the method I’m going to use to get my beer from Brooklyn, NY to the West Coast:

Step 1

Find a suitable box. Here, I’m using a box that is roughly 10″ x 8″ x 7″ to ship four bottles of beer.

Step 2

Find packing peanuts and a plastic bag to line the box. I happen to have an indefatigable stock of plastic grocery bags, but if you use paper, or you’re box is bigger than that, consider using garbage bags as an alternative. Keep in mind that the purpose of the bag is simply to contain the beer, in case a bottle leaks or breaks, so you have a variety of options here. Update: After sending this package, I prepared a second box, also going to the West Coast. I was sending a six-pack and needed to use a larger box. Instead of using a garbage bag to encapsulate all of the contents of the box, I wrapped each pair of bottles individually in a plastic grocery bag, which was convenient since there was plenty of slack to tie each off individually for a water-tight seal.

Step 3

Find and cut one sheet of bubble wrap per two beers into about 1′ x 2′ pieces.

Step 4

Line the box with the plastic bag.

Step 5

Add a thin bottom layer of packing peanuts. Update: For my second shipment, I didn’t have any extra peanuts, so I substituted with an extra layer of bubble wrap, which worked fine.

Step 6

Wrap two bottles of beer per sheet of bubble wrap by taping each end to a bottle and rolling them to the center, like a scroll.

Step 7

Tape the scroll closed in the middle and at the ends.

Step 8

Place the first beers in the box, on top of the bottom layer of packing peanuts.

Step 9

Add a second layer of packing peanuts.

Step 10

Add the next layer of beer, and top off with the final layer of packing peanuts. At this point, I have added enough peanuts to the box to fill all the gaps between the beer layers and box walls, so that my beers are safe–effectively suspended–in the center of the box.

Step 11

Knot the plastic bag, or seal it some other way. I could improve this method by sealing the bag completely at the top as (I assume) it is at the bottom, so that no matter how the box is oriented beer won’t leak out.

The underlying issue here is this: A dry box will get delivered, but a wet box may not–even if only one bottle’s broken.

Update: As noted above, for my second shipment, I wrapped each pair of bottles individually in a grocery bags, without doing anything more. Had I lined the box with a garbage bag, I could have added a second layer of protection against leakage.

Step 12

Lastly, seal the box with packing tape and mark “Fragile” and “This Side Up”. I’ll ship with UPS because I read that UPS and FedEx are preferable over USPS, which is supposedly more likely to damage packages. More importantly, shipping my beer may be illegal, so it makes sense to avoid using USPS, which is a governmental body.

While thinking about how to ship this beer, I looked around a little bit online for some information. I didn’t find too much–not that there should be, this is just beer after all–but I saw several people recommending that you write on the box “Live Yeast Sample,” or something similar. I don’t think I’ll be doing that. My gut tells me this would do more harm than good. In a country where concern over security is fever pitch, live yeast could quickly become a “biological agent”, a la the TSA’s “improvised electronic device“. I think, if anybody even asks, I’ll say they’re snow globes…

Update: I shipped this past Saturday, December 15, 2007, with UPS and my packages are expected to arrive the 25th or 26th. The total cost for both packages, 4 and 6 bottles a piece, was $36.48, or about $18.25 each. That’s a lot of dough considering I can purchase an ingredient kit to make another five gallons for about the same amount of money, but what can you do?