The Logistics of Transporting Beer

boxes stackedYou made it through brew day.
You warded off infections and imperfections.
You want to show off your new homebrew. But how?
Sure, you can have friends over to your place or grab a six-pack for NFL Sunday at your in-laws, but what about your friends hundreds of miles away or that homebrew competition you’ve been itching to enter?
Sometimes getting your brew from point A to B can be something of a hassle, both logistically and legally. All hope is not lost, however.
Transporting Beer Yourself
Whether you keg or bottle your homebrew, two key elements come into play when moving your homemade beer:
1. Avoid intense heat swings.
2. Keep the beer as calm and settled as possible.
If you’re traveling across town, heat is the least of your problems. If you spend a day driving with a box of homebrew in your trunk or backseat – that’s a different story.
Remember that like you, the yeast in your keg or bottle are living organisms and prefer comfortable temperature ranges. As a beer’s temperature inches past 80 degrees, you may get bad-tasting esters from uncomfortable yeast, or the yeast my simply die out. As best you can, keep your homebrew close to fermenting temperature.
During any transport, you’ll want to make sure your beer doesn’t move around too much. The more bumps you hit, the more yeast sediment will get knocked around. The last thing you want is a cloudy, yeasty homebrew (unless it’s a hefeweizen!).
Like you do for conditioning, store the bottles or kegs upright and put them in a secure space – a box with cardboard protective pieces will do. You can always strap a seatbelt around a keg, too. Wrapping beer in towels prevents extra movement and breakage, so don’t feel nervous about protecting your babies.
Always make sure you know applicable laws when moving beer across state lines yourself. The Homebrewers Association has a list of laws for all 50 states.
Sending Beer via Mail
This is a bit tricky, as it’s currently illegal to ship beer through the United States Postal Service and UPS and FedEx will only ship beer between licensed companies and consumers. If you want to send your homebrew for judging, you may have to get inventive.
How to send your homebrew with parcel companies? If asked about what’s being shipped, homebrewers will often reply “yeast samples,” “collectable bottles” and the like. The Homebrewers Association received a record 7,823 entries for their 2012 National Homebrew Competition, so it’s clear that there are many out there who will ship their beer no matter what. After all, participating in competitions is the best way to test your mettle as a homebrewer and get insight into how to become better.
Before bringing your bottles to a UPS or FedEx facility, make sure they’re safe for transport. First wrap each in a plastic bag – in case of a break the beer won’t spill. Then, find a box that will fit the wrapped bottles and cushioning snuggly. Paper towels, crumpled newspapers and packing peanuts are all worthy choices to pack around the bottles and keep them safe during travel.
When dropping off your homebrew at a shipping facility, make sure everything is boxed up, ready to go and hand over your “yeast samples.”
With a little foresight and some careful packaging, your homebrew will arrive safe and sound at its final destination every time!
*It’s important to note the Homebrewers Association is working to rectify the issue of shipping beer and the Postal Service has discussed lifting its ban on alcoholic products.
Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.