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Here’s How A Six-Pack Of Craft Beer Ends Up Costing $12

A Brief History Lesson

Once upon a time, the federal government thought it would be a brilliant idea to constitutionally ban all production, importation, transportation, and distribution of alcohol within the U.S. Thankfully, the concept didn’t last too long, and prohibition was overturned in 1933, thanks to the 21st Amendment. However, its passage also gave states absolute power to create their own legislation pertaining to the regulation of alcohol (including shipping laws).

To this day, there still isn’t one overarching set of rules that clearly explains the dos and don’ts when it comes to shipping beer. Instead, every state is essentially left to its own devices. And in some cases, the laws can vary from one county to another within the same state. Because of this, the major players in the shipping space (think: FedEx, UPS, USPS) are very specific about outlining their own policies and who they choose to work with. In fact, according to the Postal Service’s shipping restrictions, alcohol is listed as a restricted domestic item, along with cigarettes, firearms, poison, and live animals.

If you thought shipping beer was as simple as tossing a six-pack into a box with packing peanuts, paying for postage, and dropping it off at your local FedEx branch, think again. Believe it or not, the typical consumer is not permitted to ship beer on their own accord to another consumer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a New Yorker mailing a few brews from Brooklyn to Queens, or a Floridian sending suds to a buddy out in California. We, the common folk, are simply unable to do so. (Legally, that is.)

It all comes down to what’s known in the industry as the three-tier system. You have the suppliers (like AmBev and Diageo), the wholesalers or distributors (such as Southern Wine and Spirits), and the retailers that sell to the masses (i.e. bars, bottle shops, and convenience stores). Only retailers can sell directly to consumers—and in order for them to be permitted to ship beer, they need a special license. They also typically need to have an alcohol shipper’s contract with a company like FedEx, which comes with its own set of strict policies.

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5. Add in your final materials and tape up the box

Add in any extra items like coasters, stickers, inserts, notes, etc. on top with a last layer of padding. Use your packing tape to seal it all up and make sure it’s secure.

If you traded with me before you’ve probably received one of my hand written notes. Most traders don’t do this but I enjoy writing them. I also include BEX coasters, stickets, and other swag from time to time.

I add those items to the top and cover them with another single layer of bubble wrap. I always make sure there is padding on top of the beer in case something gets placed on top of the box during shipping.

Tape up your box securely. I always add some tape to the edges and over any areas that look like they are weak or might tear. Once that’s done, you’re ready to attach a shipping label (if you’re printing them at home) or bring it to the shipping location. If you do the former, you can just drop off the box. If you do the latter, you’ll need to provide them with your information along with the destination name and address.

That’s it! Now you’re ready to send out your #BEXmail!

What Are the Best Pallets for Beer Shipment?

While it may be tempting to purchase the cheapest pallets available so that you can keep your bottom line down and get your product out, this way of thinking can come back to haunt you. You could end up losing product in transit, damaging your truck, or — even worse — injuring an employee. Pallets today come in many different materials and with numerous features, so you can easily find the ideal pallets for storing and shipping your beer.

Wood Pallets vs. Plastic Pallets

Wood has long been the go-to pallet material for many industries, including breweries, due to the low initial cost. But, many companies — and foodservice companies especially — are discovering the benefits of plastic pallets. As Higgins from Sea Dog Brewing states, “With wood pallets, if [kegs] are not centered properly, the wood pallets will break. You’ll add more time to your day, more aggravation. It can happen in transit and cause damage to trucks as well.”

Plastic pallets are much sturdier than wood pallets, meaning fewer delays caused by broken pallets. Some of the other benefits of plastic pallets include that they are:

  • Sanitary because they are nonporous and easy to clean, while wood pallets can absorb liquids and become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, generally things you do not want next to your beer!
  • Made with smoother sides than wood pallets, so they are less likely to damage your packaging.
  • Sustainable and a better option for companies that pride themselves on being green, as plastic creates less waste than wood.
  • Cost-effective, because plastic pallets will last longer than wood so they can reduce your freight costs long term.
  • Lighter, reducing freight costs and improving ease of handling.
  • Longer lasting, while the average wood pallet is typically disused within three years, plastic pallets are often rated to last for a minimum of ten years.

If you already have wood pallets, that doesn’t mean your product is doomed. Many breweries still use wood pallets without issue. When the time comes to replace broken pallets or add pallets as your inventory grows, however, it is advisable to consider plastic pallets.

Pallet Features

Once you have decided on your pallet material, there are also an array of pallet features that can safeguard your product and your employees. Plastic pallets can come equipped with ledges, interlocking feet, tie-down points, and solid tops that distribute weight more evenly. These features can be the difference between your beer arriving safely or topping over on a bumpy road. What’s more, the stackable pallets nest inside one another once empty. So, when the empty pallets are shipped back, they will take up less volume, which could reduce your freight costs.

Preventing Load Shift

Even when using the best pallets, full cases or kegs of beer are likely to shift around during transit unless adequately secured. “We use strapping for our kegs to create a single weight to keep it more balanced,” says Higgins of Sea Dog Brewing Company. “We’ll strap them with a plastic strap. Then we’ll wrap them in case the strap breaks for a security blanket.” Many breweries will use industrial-strength shrink wrap to wrap the pallets and their contents as another way to create a single weight out of each pallet load.

If you or your employees are loading the truck yourself, then consideration must also be taken at that time to prevent load shift. “We try to match our pallets to about the same weight on either side of the truck so it’s balanced,” says Rice. Plus, you will likely hit the weight limit a truck can carry before you take up the full volume of the truck, so you must be mindful of the weight of your entire load, beer and pallets included.

How to Pack Beer and Wine In Your Luggage

First off, let us assure you of one thing: Your beer and wine, even if they are carbonated and contain bubbles like sparkling wines, will not explode during your flight. Both the cargo hold and the cabin are pressurized, so that great new IPA you just had to buy a few bottles of or the fancy bubbly you’re going to save for a special occasion won’t blow their top on the way home. 

But accidents can still happen. Your bag could be jostled around too much, a baggage handler could throw it too hard, or, if you travel with soft or fabric suitcases, heavier luggage could land on top of it and break fragiles inside. All in all, there are plenty of ways beer cans or bottles can be broken over the course of a flight, so you want to make sure it’s thoroughly padded and protected to survive the trip.

  • Wrap each bottle or can in its own individual plastic bag. If one can or bottle breaks during transit, the mess will be contained by the bag, protecting your clothes and other belongings from being soaked in wine and beer. Ziploc bags come in handy for this purpose, but you can also use just about any plastic bag as long as it can be tied closed or secured. And if you’re worried about plastic waste, you can always reuse plastic bags again and again or invest in reusable silicone bags that can easily be washed out and reused in the future. 
  • Make sure each bottle or can is well-padded. After making sure each can or bottle has been wrapped up plastic, make sure that each is individually surrounded by enough padding that they won’t knock against each other or roll around. That means adding padding on the sides, top, and bottom. Often, just wrapping your clothes, towels, or other soft items around the bottles is sufficient, especially if you use heavier clothes like jackets or sweaters. But if you’re still afraid of any liquids leaking onto your clothes if there’s breakage, you can also pad them with bubble wrap. Once again, you want to pad each bottle or can separately, not together.
  • Double-check that they are well-secured. For a final check, jostle or rattle your suitcase a bit to see if the bottles or cans roll around or knock against each other. If they do, rearrange them to make sure they are as secured and padded as can be. 

That being said, cans and glass bottles both travel differently. Next, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each, as well as specific packing instructions.

How to Pack Bottles

Glass bottles require far more attention and finesse. You need to make sure the bottles do not touch each other, ensure the glass is close to the middle of the bag, and pack tightly so that the bottles shift as little as possible.

Dan Baker/The Manual
Dan Baker/The Manual
Dan Baker/The Manual
Dan Baker/The Manual

This is where creativity comes into play. Whenever possible, look for ways to safely integrate your glass into protective items you’re already packing. Twelve-ounce bottles fit nice and snug inside running shoes, for example. Or, your waterproof dopp kit may provide extra space to safely wrap a smaller bottle. Those elastic compartments in the divider of your suitcase? They make another built-in spot to hide away your precious cargo.

If you’re planning to bring more than a couple of beer bottles or larger-format bottles, your travel essentials need to include bubble wrap, packing tape, and plastic bags. Use these guidelines for safe do-it-yourself (DIY) packing:

  1. Tape down the caps tightly onto the bottle.
  2. Place each bottle inside of a sock or wrap individually with bubble wrap.
  3. Bundle all of your bottles together and enclose the group in a halo of bubble wrap.
  4. Seal the collection in a plastic bag in the center of your suitcase and pad out the sides with clothes.

Shipping Beer In-State

But still, there are even more factors you’ll need to keep in mind. In the majority of cases, shipping beer in-state is typically the easiest scenario, since you only need to worry about that one particular state’s laws. The exception comes with those states whose laws vary throughout its municipalities (like in Kentucky, where 38 of its 120 counties are “dry”). Either way, your best bet is to go to a trusted retailer and speak with an expert in person. They should be fully informed on the state’s laws and can help fill you in on the specifics (for example, if there’s a limit on the amount of beer you can ship). But as you can imagine, shipping beer from one state to another can get even more troublesome.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship Beer?

Shipping a four- or six-pack of beer runs about $15 to $16 in most cases. Package shipping fees are often calculated volumetrically, which takes into account total dimensional size as well as weight.

This is particularly important to know if you’re learning how to ship large items. It also explains why small packages that weigh more occasionally cost more than dimensionally large packages. 

How to Ship Alcohol to Another State

When your booze crosses state borders, "you need to consider the laws for both the shipping state and the receiving state," says Weinberg. So, for example, if you'd like to send a bottle of wine from a visit along Pennsylvania's wine trail to a relative in Mississippi, don't waste your time or your money. While it's perfectly legal to mail wine from this northern state, it's also perfectly illegal to receive wine shipments in Mississippi. (As of this summer, however, home delivery of alcohol from local retailers became legal in the state.)

In other words, Mississippi is not a reciprocal state, a state in which you can receive alcohol shipments from other states or countries, explains Lekkala. You can read more about reciprocal states and other out-of-state shipment rules here.

Of course, there's an easy way around these convoluted laws, too. Most—though not all—alcohol that can be purchased in one state can be found somewhere in another, so if you're dying to ship your brother a new brew, hit the web first to see if you can find a retailer in his state that carries the beverage, recommends Lekkala. It will be much easier to provide a credit card number over the phone than try to send that brew between states. "Even state-controlled stores realize they're losing business to other states and improving the range of inventories they're carrying," Lekkala says.

Get the Containers and Pallets You Need Quickly

At RTP, we pride ourselves on our quick quotes and thorough customer service, helping you make an informed and swift decision. Plus, with multiple storage warehouses across the country, we are able to ship quickly and have them to you in a matter of days. Once your order is received, you can count on our customer service team for continued support.

For more information on any of our products, contact Reusable Transport Packaging today. We will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with a quote.

“Our reputation and success come from RTP’s ability to consistently offer the best products at the best prices — right when they’re needed.” — Justin, Business Development & Sales Manager Request a Quote

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