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Beer Trading Part Three: Packing and Shipping

So I’ve had an ongoing project where I’ve been walking you guys through a beer trade.  In case you missed it, part 1 is HERE and part 2 is HERE

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. 

Wrapping the bottles in bubble wrap.

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. 

Packing the box.

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. 

One last layer of bubble wrap.

Ready to be sealed up.

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. 

Packing up a 6-bottle styrofoam shipping box.

Shipping made easy.

Both methods work, but it’s up to you the route you want to take. 

 

All packed up and ready to go!

 

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. 

Track your shipments on the FedEx website.

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. 

Cheers!


Opening Day Recap, New Beers, New Brewery and Beer Fests!!!

Who was downtown for the Rockies Opening Day yesterday?  Maybe I should ask, who wasn’t downtown for Opening Day yesterday?  The weather was perfect again this year and baseball fans were out soaking it up.  It was a great day and good to see so many friends out and about.

Our group met up at Mellow Mushroom to try the 18th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA from Great Divide.  Before long, we moved over to Falling Rock Tap House.  Odell had their tap truck and a tent set up out front.  I got treated to a glass of Myrcenary Double IPA and a new hat from the good people out there.  They were rockin’, but the beer was flowing and everybody was enjoying themselves.

We eventually made our way inside Coors Field and I tried the Farmhouse Red at Sandlot Brewery.  It’s a Farmhouse meets Flanders Red ale, brewed with white pepper, coriander and hibiscus.  Pretty tame, but that’s to be expected for Coors Field I guess.  Still, really enjoyable on a warm day and a nice departure from the norm.  I’m not sure if this is a one-and-done deal or if they plan to keep it available all season, but give it a try on your next visit.

Sandlot Farmhouse Red Ale

After watching the Rockies get embarrassed by the Giants, we made our way over to Star Bar.  We had some friends playing in the Kentucky Street Parlor Pickers and they suggested we stop by.  Great music, mixed with a New Belgium promotion and good beer.  Not to be missed!  Denver really needs to make Opening Day a state holiday and let people take the day off from work.  It shouldn’t be missed.

So there’s plenty more new beers getting ready to roll out for Spring and Summer.  Dry Dock in Aurora, CO, is busy bottling their upcoming seasonal, Apricot Blonde.  Bottles will be going on sale at the brewery on April 16th and will be making their way to Colorado liquor stores soon after.

Dry Dock Apricot Blonde in the bottling line.

Over at Avery, in Boulder, CO, they’ve got a Belgian-Style Triple in the works called Nineteen.  This will be released in time for their upcoming 19th anniversary later this summer.   The 8.2% ABV Tripel will be widely distributed and should be hitting stores soon.  Stay tuned for more details on their big anniversary party in August.

Up in Fort Collins, CO, Odell plans to release this years batch of St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale on April 21, 2012.  A party is scheduled at the brewery with music, food, games and of course, plenty of beer.  St. Lupulin is a 6.5%, hoppy, refreshing summer-time ale, and will be sold throughout their ten state distribution area.

So where will you be this weekend?  I know it’s only Tuesday, but it’s never too early to start making plans.  Patti and I will be heading up to Breckenridge, CO for their 6th annual Spring Beer Festival.  The festival is on Saturday, April 14th, from noon-5PM and will feature 25 craft breweries.  Local favorites like Odell and Left Hand will be pouring, along with several breweries from out-of-state, including Stone and Deschutes.  Tickets and details can be found HERE.  Drop me a line if you’re going and maybe we can meet up for a beer.

Image Detail

There’s also a new brewery opening it’s doors to the public for the first time this weekend.  Echo Brewing, in Frederick, CO, will have their Grand Opening on Saturday, April 14th at 2PM.  This weekend they will be pouring a Kolsch, IPA, Brown and ESB.  Oskar Blues will have a food truck on-site from 3-6PM.  More information can be found on the Echo Brewing website and Facebook page.  If anybody is attending, I’d love to hear your feedback or see some pictures.

Dry Dock is releasing a Blackberry Porter this week for Firkin Friday.  This sounds really yummy.  Stop by and give it a try.  Firkin gets tapped at 3PM.

Oh, and don’t forget about the 4th Annual Saison and Farmhouse Ale Festival down at Trinity in Colorado Springs, CO.  I hear there are still a handful of tickets left.  Show your AHA membership card and get $5 off your ticket.  This event is scheduled for Saturday, April 14th from 11AM-4PM.  I’ve never been, but it’s definitely on my radar for next year.

Man, so much to do this weekend!  Hope you can get out and enjoy it.  Cheers!


An Introduction to Beer Trading

Quite often in this blog, I write about new beers coming out around the country.  Last month, I wrote about Cascade’s Sour Blueberry and Russian River’s Beatification.  Coming up in April is Three Floyd’s Dark Lord and Ithaca’s LeBleu.   Unfortunately, you can’t just walk to your local liquor store and pick up a bottle.  Many of these beers will only be sold at the brewery or will see very limited distribution.  What’s a beer nerd to do?  Relax, grab a beer and let me introduce you to the world of Beer Trading. 

Beer trading is a great way to track down limited release beers like the ones mentioned above or maybe track down old favorites that don’t distribute to Colorado.  My first trade was nearly 5 years ago when I traded for bottles of New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart.  Basically, I had tried these beers at the Great American Beer Festival and wanted some bottles for my fridge. 

If you’ve ever been to GABF, you’re probably familiar with New Glarus and their never-ending line of 50+ people all waiting patiently for a 2 oz. pour of beer.  They have a line at their table from the time the doors open on Thursday evening until the beer stops flowing late on Saturday night.  And for good reason, they make some amazing beers and their fruit beers in particular are highly respected and sought after.  Other than 3 days during GABF, New Glarus beers don’t make it to Colorado.  In fact, New Glarus doesn’t distribute outside their home state of Wisconsin.  No distribution to Colorado is bad news for us, but the good news is that New Glarus is really easy to find in Wisconsin. 

Brewers and press lining up for New Glarus, before the festival doors even opened up.

So, we either need to make a road trip up to visit those cheese heads (approx. 30 hours round trip from Denver) or we can swap a few e-mails with a Wisconsin local and set up a trade.  I’m going to be munchin’ on marshmallow peeps and hiding easter eggs for the kids this weekend, so I can’t make a road trip anytime soon, but I can probably spend a few minutes in front of the computer and arrange a beer trade. 

One of our readers, we’ll just call him “Tony”, (mainly because that’s his name) has volunteered to let me walk him through a beer trade and share with you his experiences along the way.  One of the first things I asked Tony was whether or not he had an account on beeradvocate.com.  If you’re not familiar with beeradvocate, it’s a website where you can share reviews and learn about beer, but they have an area with forums that allow beer geeks to interact with each other.  One of the forums is set up specifically for trading. 

Turns out, Tony already has a beeradvocate.com account.  If you don’t have one, they’re free and will give you access to the forums.  The trading forum is called “ISO:FT”.  “ISO”, means “In Search Of” and “FT”, means “For Trade”.  So our post will look something along the lines of ISO: New Glarus, FT: Colorado Locals.  Simple and to the point. 

Head’s up, if you’re going to post on beeradvocate.com, read the rules first.  The Bros. that run the site can be a little strict at times, but they mean well.  Just make sure you don’t offer anything other than beer for beer trades.  No trading your wife for beer, tickets for beer, pet goldfish for beer and definitely don’t offer to buy or sell any beer.  It’s a no-no and will only get your post deleted. 

There are other sites out there, but I think Beeradvocate has a pretty wide audience and I’ve been using it for nearly 6 years.  I’ve met a lot of great people through the site, have made some good friendships and have a regular network of people around the country that I trade with, so I’m a little partial to it.  Like I said, there are other sites that will allow you to meet other beer traders, but Beeradvocate is the one I prefer. 

So we want New Glarus, specifically Belgian Red, maybe Raspberry Tart and Tony mentioned he also wanted to track down some Spotted Cow, which is their Cream Ale.  These are fairly easy to find in Wisconsin and wouldn’t be hard for a local to pick up.  In return, we’re going to offer beers that are local to us here in Colorado. 

In simple trades like this, I will typically offer some of my favorite locals that don’t get distributed very far.  For me, I’m leaning towards Odell, Dry Dock, Funkwerks and Crooked Stave.  These are good breweries, making good beers that are fairly easy for me to find and will be enjoyed by the recipient.  It wouldn’t make sense to offer beers from breweries like Avery, New Belgium and Great Divide, mainly because they have a huge distribution footprint.  The vast majority of their lineup can be found across the U.S. and our recipient is going to want to trade for beers that he can go to a store and buy.  There are still small batch releases and brewery exclusives that we can trade, but that’s a little advanced at this point.  Let’s keep it simple for now.  We can also offer breweries that distribute to Colorado, but might not distribute to Wisconsin.  Maybe Russian River or Firestone Walker from California or Deschutes from Oregon. 

When trading locals for locals, your best bet is to try to keep it dollar-for-dollar.  In other words, if your recipient is spending $25 for your beer, expect to send $25 worth of beer to them. 

I think we’re about ready to make our ISO:FT post.  Click HERE to check it out.  Now we sit back and wait for a response.  I’ll keep you updated along the way.  Warning, trading can become an addicting habit.  In the meantime, enjoy the pic below.  Cheers!