Bringing Back Beercation Beer (BBBB)…
To Ship or To Schlep?
Are you going to go on a Beeration over the holidays? Do you plan to bring home some special brews with you?
Well then read on…
One of them most frequent questions I get asked from our beercation guests is “What is the best way to bring beer back home from Belgium?”
Although this answer is based on shipping or schlepping from Belgium, the basics of packing and shipping apply, regardless from where you are BBBB!
This is getting more complicated to answer each year because of all the airline restrictions on the weight of your suitcases as well as the number of bags you are allowed to check-in without a fee. As you know, this can vary from carrier to carrier, some are free & some charge an arm & a leg. Other variables include how much of the green stuff ($) you’re willing to spend vs. how much you are willing to schlep your beer to get it to and from the airport.
To help you decide, first, you should find out what your airline charges for baggage fees. Then you can compare it to the cost of shipping.
If you want to ship (mail) beer from Belgium to the US:
Good News is that there are National Postal service offices in Bruges & Brussels and in all major metro areas.
The Bad News is the cost can be pretty steep. (The following numbers are based on 2012 pricing when this article was originally published).
To ship to the USA, approximate prices are: 52 euro for 10KG(22lbs), 78 euro for 20KG(44lbs) and 102 euro for 30KG(66lbs).
In USD assuming an exchange rate of 1.35 then 52 euro = $70.20 for 22 pounds; 78 euro = $105.30 for 44 pounds & 102 euro = $137.70 for 66 pounds.
Weight-wise, a case of 750ml bottles (12) can weight between 33 – 42 pounds depending on the weight of the glass. This can vary greatly as some champagne style bottles weigh 4 pounds & the small bottles (11.2oz) can weight about 1.2 pounds each.
So once you do the math, you can determine the cost of shipping vs schlepping your beer.
How To ship: You can most likely get boxes at some of the beer bottle shops. Some of the breweries you visit might have one of two to spare…but there are no guarantees of finding a box. The Post Office might have some boxes, but the “green” movement is very big there and it is getting more and more difficult to find bubble wrap and cardboard boxes in Europe. So at the very least, make sure to bring a roll of bubble wrap and packing tape with you (or, even better, if you have one, an empty wine shipper).
To pack your beer, wrap up in bubble wrap or put it into a Styrofoam beer/wine holders and secure snugly in shipping box. Make sure your address includes “USA”. Take to Post office to ship. You might have to fill out forms at the post office. If you do, make sure you say it is for personal consumption.
Shipping downfalls: Besides being very pricey, it could take a long time to receive your beer. It will have to clear customs in the US, which is much more difficult than at the airport. There is also a higher risk of losing your packages by sending them this way.
To bring beer back on the plane with you:
Either check on, pack in your suitcase, or carry on the plane a large lightweight empty duffel bag with a roll of bubble wrap and packing tape (or, even better, if you have one, an empty Styrofoam wine/beer shipper). At the end of the trip just bubble wrap all the bottles then place them in your “hard suitcase” and cushion with some of your clothing. Use the large duffel bag to stash the rest of the clothes that will not fit in your hard suitcase because there is beer inside. You might want to also pack a few small garbage bags to put your wrapped beer bottles in, just in case there is breakage. This is the method most people use, including me, and is the safest and cheapest. Customs is no hassle, however I recommend that you still declare that you have beer and the value of all the beer you are bringing home. Most likely you will not have to pay any taxes and it will not be confiscated. By bringing the beer home with you on the plane there is less risk of the beer getting lost and you will get you beer much quicker since it will arrive home when you do!
(Besides using bubble wrap, other ways to “protect” you beer bottles are to slip a bottle into a heavy sock and then roll it up with a t-shirt or a pair of jeans/slacks).
Downfall of bring beer back on the plane: You need to schlep a very heavy suitcase (full of beer) to the airport.
Additional precautions and thoughts: Sometimes we also take large ziplocs and/or Saran wrap for extra wrapping. Most important to remember though, is though the beer will be good when you get it home, it is never the same as the joy of drinking great beer at the source, so don’t forget to enjoy your brews when you are there, in the moment, on Beercation!