Beer Trading

Let it be known from this day forward, there is not better feeling than coming home to see your porch completely demolished because the the weight of your new beer mail/trade was just too much.  Okay, okay, maybe you do not want your porch to collapse, but really, there is nothing better than receiving beer mail.

If you are unfamiliar with beer mail/ beer trading, aka porch crushers, it is often a mutual exchange process where friends or complete strangers send one another beer typically not available in their area.  These exchanges vary in size, sometimes only one bottle sent but upwards of 12 bottles or more.  Beer mail is really an opportunity for craft beer drinkers to have a taste of some fantastic beers that are not readily available to them.

I have had the great pleasure to taste some fantastic beers, not available in my area, because of beer trades.  From friends, fellow drinkers on The Keg Tap and new friends via social media.   Beers from all over the country have made their way to my home, courtesy of awesome craft beer peeps.  With that, I want to talk a little about packing beer and how best to send some porch crushers.

  1. IT IS ILLEGAL TO SHIP ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES VIA THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE.  This is an important item to note.  Shipping beer via a private shipping company is not illegal but, may be against their policy.  So, know the policies and proceed with caution.
  2. Once you have determined a shipping company, it is time to determine the beers.  Determining the beers to ship is difficult because the list is ever growing.  Take into account the personal preferences of the recipient, what is popular in your area that the recipient cannot buy and your personal favorites.  If this is your first beer trade, maybe stick to 3-4 bottles until you become comfortable with the process.
  3. Find a box.  The box should be big enough to allow for excessive packing, but not so big that the beer jostles while in route or worse, so small that any small bump will cause the nectar of the gods to spill about.  I typically use a 14×14 box for my shipments as it allows a good amount of bottles and even a couple bombers if packed correctly.  Once you find a box, line the interior with a large trash bag.  The trash bag will collect any breakage….god forbid.
  4. Packing.  Each bottle should be placed into a gallon ziplock bag (assuming it will fit). The ziplock bag is sealed and taped closely to the bottle.  After sealing, each bottle should receive a couple of rotations of bubble wrap.  I typically use two forms of wrap.  Bubble wrap with small bubbles for the first layer.  Bubble wrap with larger bubbles for the outer layer. Tape accordingly and don’t forget to fold the wrap over the bottom and top. Wrap. Tape. Wrap. Tape….you get the idea.
  5. Packing the box.  This is where you have some options.  I typically use one of two methods depending on what I have on hand.  The first is styrofoam peanuts.  While they are a pain to clean up, they do a great job of protecting the goods.  Fill the bottom of the box (with the bag in) with a few inches of packing peanuts.  Carefully insert your beer.  You are going to want to ensure the bottles are somewhat close to the center of the box leaving roughly 3-4 inches between each side of the box and the bottles.  Once the beer is put in, completely fill the box with the remaining peanuts, ensuring total protection.  The other option that I have used is the use of 3 inch thick sturdy foam strips to line the box.  Find some sturdy foam to lay bottles on and against and use newspaper or another packing agent to assist.   While you want the box filled and tight, you do not want the box to be bulging or to be strained in anyway.  If so, repack because it will likely not work out in your or the recipient’s benefit.
  6. Almost done!  Tape the outside of the box with great attention. Ensure all corners and seams are well taped.  Then you are off to the shipping company.  Again, do not ship utilizing the United State Postal Service.  Many shipping companies will not ask you what you are shipping, but if you are utilizing a company in which shipping alcohol is against their policy, proceed as you wish.  Many people who ship against company policy have indicated they are shipping yeast samples and or gifts.  What you tell them or don’t is up to you.
  7. Prepare to crush someone’s porch!  I typically receive a tracking number so that I can keep tabs on where the package is and the estimate delivery date.

Do yourself a favor and set up a beer trade!  Let an acquaintance, friend or instagram follower know you are down to do some beer trading and let the process ensue.  It is a great opportunity to create some new craft beer friends, test your packing skills but more importantly try some amazing beers.  What are you waiting for?  Go crush some porches!