Beer Trading Part Three: Packing and Shipping
At this point, we’ve agreed on what beers we’re going to send and receive. I’ve also responded to all of the people who sent me a message looking to trade. It’s good to respond, even if it’s just to say “thanks, but no thanks”. Kody (our trader out in IL) and I have agreed on a shipping date and we’re ready to pack up and send.
There are several ways to wrap and pack and there’s plenty of different materials you can pick from. I typically just go with the basic bubble wrap, but I’ve done so many trades at this point and recycle most of the material I receive, so as long as the packing material is still in good condition, I’ll just reuse it on a future trade.
Wrap each bottle individually. Don’t skimp here. Make sure everything is covered with packing material and taped up so nothing slips out.
After wrapping, it’s not a bad idea to slip each beer into a ziploc bag. That way, if something breaks, your box won’t be dripping wet. Most shipping companies won’t deliver a box that is leaking and it will only cause problems for you down the road. If something does break, it’s typically the responsibility of the shipper to make good and replace the beer. Take your time and do a good job on packing the beers. There’s nothing worse than having a shipment out there in “beer purgatory” because something leaked out or busted during delivery.
For your box, make sure it’s sturdy and can take a beating if necessary. Don’t go with some flimsy shoe box or thin-walled cardboard box. Moving boxes work, double-walled boxes are the best. Use your best judgement here, but realize your box will be going on a long journey across the country, so pick a good one. If you’re shipping a lot of beers, don’t be afraid to split it between two boxes.
So you’ve wrapped your beers and picked your box, now line the box with bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts or whatever padded material you’ve got and start packing your beers. I try to leave a little space in between each beer and fill it up with styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap. Again, don’t skimp.
In the past, I’ve lined my boxes with a big garbage bag and tied it closed before closing up the box. That way, if something happens to break, it won’t destroy the box and ruin the shipment. I haven’t done this in a while, but would recommend it if you’re going to be shipping full growlers. Make sure you completely fill the empty space in your box with packing material. This will ensure your beers aren’t slipping and moving around inside during delivery. Again, don’t skimp or cut corners when it comes to packing your beers.
I try to visualize my box taking a 6-foot fall. Would the beers survive? If the answer is yes, then you should be safe to ship. If you’re not sure, repack and don’t take the risk.
Pack it up tight and tape it closed. I use a lot of tape and hit each open edge a few times just to be safe.
An easier way to pack your beers, is to track down some styrofoam bottle shippers. These are molded to hold big 750mL bottles, but with a little bubble wrap, you can fill the space to hold 22oz. bombers or 12oz. bottles. Super easy to use and you can get them in 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 or 12 bottle sizes. Over time, I’ve accumulated a bunch of these in the garage and I typically use them with people I trade with over and over again. I’ll ship first and they’ll fill it up and send beers back to me. It’s a time saver and if you have regular trading partners that you trade with multiple times, it can save you money too.
Both methods work, but it’s up to you the route you want to take.
As for shipping, don’t use U.S. Mail. It’s illegal to ship alcohol using the USPS. Don’t bother with them. I use FedEx and most traders will use FedEx or UPS, but don’t advertise that you’re shipping beer. Some shipping employees won’t care, others will tell you they won’t ship it.
If someone hears a little sloshing around in your box, they might ask what’s inside. Good answers are steak marinade, yeast samples or collectible bottles. You can also mask the sounds by throwing a handful of rice in the bottom of the box. I’ve also received boxes that had a tiny box of pennies inside. Not necessary, but not a bad idea either.
Make life easy on yourself and set up a free FedEx account. It only takes a minute to do and allows you to print your own shipping labels on your home printer. Get your box dimensions and approximate weight, enter your destination and print it out. Then you just need to tape it to your box and schedule a pickup or drop it off at your local retailer. Aside from saving yourself the hassle of filling out all your shipping papers at the store, you get a discount and they’ll even give you free shipping supplies. So easy, a caveman can do it.
You’ll get a tracking number which you’ll want give to your recipient. That way they can track it along the way and know when to expect delivery.
It’s not a bad idea to throw in a couple of extra beers in your box. I usually drop in a few tasty local beers that I think my recipient might enjoy. If it’s someone I’ve traded with a few times, I might throw in something that I know they’ve been looking for or is tough to track down. Living in Colorado, I usually go with Odell, Dry Dock or if I’m shipping east, maybe some Firestone Walker or Deschutes. Just something that our target probably doesn’t have access to and would enjoy. Sometimes I’ll also throw in a nice tulip glass or some brewery swag in as well. Just a little something to say thanks for the trade. It’s not required, but is something that most traders will do and helps spread a little good beer karma.
Now you’ve done all the work, just drop off your package and wait for yours to show up in return. I dropped off yesterday and it’s supposed to arrive on Thursday. See, now that wasn’t so hard, was it? I’m looking forward to getting some fresh New Glarus. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what we got. Feel free to hit me up with any questions you might have. In the meantime, sit back and have a beer.
Plenty of great events coming up this weekend. I should have all the details up in another day or two, so check back soon for updates. Also, click on the Facebook page for daily updates and happenings in the world of beer.