Aug 20, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 2, No. 5
Flying with beer

Nov. 1, 2001

It seems that since Sept. 11 less has changed about flying with beer than has changed in general about traveling by air. If you pack carefully and plan your carry-on luggage properly you can still haul a case of Victory Brewing beer home from Pennsylvania, tote back 750ml bottles of Belgian beer for friends in the United States and even take unmarked bottles of homebrew as wedding presents.


Last week we asked Beer Break readers to recount recent experiences about traveling with beer. Their successes are not guarantees you can do the same. The F.A.A. has issued plenty of new safety directives (which are not available to the public) to airlines and encouraged them to add items at their discretion. What works today may not tomorrow.

And that's not to say that readers didn't already encounter some hassles. For instance, Aubrey Laurence from Virginia wrote us:

"Last month I was in Colorado Springs, and I bought 3 cases of random Colorado 6-packs and 22s. I packed half of it in my luggage (wrapped every bottle meticulously with bubble wrap), and then I shipped the rest in boxes. As luck would have it, we were picked to be searched by hand at the airport. They had to unpack all my beer at the airport -- it was kind of funny. Surprisingly enough, the guy said that wasn't his first time. By the way, I made sure to split up my beer (between the suitcases, and the beer I shipped), so that I'd be sure to at least get half of it home!"

Cornelia Corey of North Carolina, who is Wynkoop Brewing's reigning Beerdrinker of the Year, had a similar experience in Portland, Oregon. In small doses, it seems, being searched can almost be fun:

"Since September 11, we have flown with beer both as a carry-on and packed in checked luggage. There appeared to be no problem with carrying beer. I was 'lucky' enough to be one of the random detailed search folks leaving Portland while carrying an autographed bottle of Fred from Hair of the Dog. The searchers joked with me about having to open it and make sure it was all right, but it was just good-natured kidding."

Andy Crouch of Beverage Business Magazine points out why we should appreciate being searched (and maybe even bothered if traveling with beer is too easy):

"I have flown twice since the unfortunate events of September 11 and have transported beer on both occasions. The first time was after the GABF and I packed the 22-ounce bottles in my carry-on luggage. I had no problems, though I had anticipated some questioning in light of Denver's tight security. The security staff asked to see my nail clippers (to check for a file) but ignored the bottle.

"The second time was from Minneapolis and I placed the bottles in my back-pack. Again, no problems or questions. While I have seen security staff ask elderly women to sip from the cups of coffee they bring through the checkpoints, never a question has been raised about my bottles. And this, in itself, is a bit disconcerting. Bottles could contain a variety of dangerous liquids and I believe they should be relegated to checked luggage status."

Pack carefully and that should not be a problem. Here are helpful tips:

- From Erik Newboe in Chicago: "I found it was best to pack each bottle individually in newspaper or Styrofoam peanuts, regardless of whether you mail it or fly with it. When flying with beer, I recommend packing it in a suitcase rather than packing it in a box. If you bring it in a packed box, you'll be asked of its contents, and depending on the mood of the airline employee, may or may not let you check it in at all."

- More from Aubrey Laurence: "Before September 11, bringing beer as a carry-on was no problem. People may look at you a little funny, but I have done it many times. But after Sept 11, the rules changed; and I don't blame them. A full bottle is like a hammer, and a broken bottle could be much worse than a box cutter! At any rate, now you'll have to pack the beer in your suitcase. Just regular boxes work well too. They might not match your designer luggage, and they're a little cumbersome to carry, but they're really easy to find on the conveyor belt! If you go with boxes, I would recommend going with a few smaller ones, rather than one or two big ones... there would be less contents to shift/move around, and the smaller boxes pack more snug. I would think that a box about twice the size of a 24-pack-of-bottles would be ideal. And wrap/tape well with fat bubble wrap. I've also discovered that those cheap, foam mats used for camping (that you're supposed to put under your sleeping bag) can be cut up ... then you just roll the beers up in it - just like 'pigs in a blanket.'"

- And from David Bartstrom: "For the past five years I have flown to Europe each year. On average I bring back 50 bottles of beer and mead. Many of these are 750ml or more in size. First I put the bottles in zip lock bags and then I wrap the bottles in clothes. Most of these are put in my check in baggage except for the few rare 10-year-old bottles of Trappist ales I come across. With over three hundred bottles flown I have only had one break. A puddle jump from Arizona to California. I few from Chicago to Sacramento this week and brought back three six packs and a bottle of mead. These were all checked in. No problem. I carried on a lot of other stuff with no problem, cell phone, camera, camcorder, cigars. So I don't think there would be a problem with bottles, although I would not take any 3 or 5 gallon kegs or CO2 tanks as I have in the past."

Thanks to all you, those quoted here and the others who wrote, for your input. Thanks also for sharing your experiences about shipping beer. We'll explore that subject next week.

Tasting notes
Brewed in Belgium

Michael Jackson writes:

The oakiness, and the faintest hint of fresh, fragrant, smokiness, is evident in both aroma and palate of Aged Pale. So is the dryish nuttiness (pistachio?), then passion fruit, pears and green apple. Complex, tightly combined, flavors. Firm, very long. Very winey. Pronounced acidity in the finish; tannin; and gentle carbonation.

Brewed by Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo.

Michael Jackson writes:

The "90 Shilling" rating belongs to a strong Scottish ale. Doug Odell was inspired to brew by a vacation in Scotland, but is himself a Welsh American, brewing in Colorado. He has expressed uncertainty to me about the "ethnicity" of this brew. I think it is definitely a Scottish ale, with its big head; deep, tawny color; excellent, clean, smooth, straight-ahead malt character; and balancing, notably nutty, leafy hop dryness.

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