Flying with beer in your checked luggage?
December 9, 2006 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Flying the Trappist skies: smuggling beer in your checked luggage. Thoughts, suggestions?

This Festivus I'm flying home to South Carolina where high alcohol content beers aren't available (they top out at 6%.) I'd love to share some big bottled, high content beers with my friends but obviously there will be no Chimay, Tripel, Unibroue, or other gourmet beers on the store shelves down there.

So I'm thinking of buying a few bottles here (Chicago) and smuggling them in my checked luggage.

Is this a reasonable proposition or am asking for trouble in the form of spewed or broken bottles, or worse, some sort of trouble with a beer-nazi patrol at the luggage pickup?

[These are largish 750ml bottles, with corks not caps, we're talking about here...]
posted by wfrgms to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Best answer: They should check fine and there should be no beer-patrol on your domestic US flights.

Packing: Put each bottle in a heavy sock, put that in a ziploc bag, add some paper towels for good measure, zip it, and wrap it in swaddling clothes as if you were checking the baby Jesus himself. I recommend a hard-sided suitcase if you have one, otherwise they're safest in the center of a cloth-sided bag. Don't check them in a duffle unless the rest is so packed nothing can shuffle around.

Checking: No worries about alcohol in terms of freezing, exploding, anything. Personal experience of similarly sized soda, corked wine, and rum bottles.
posted by whatzit at 3:43 PM on December 9, 2006

Best answer: This is about wine, but it should be helpful.
posted by Xurando at 3:58 PM on December 9, 2006

This is pure conjecture, but I'd think, even if everything is perfectly legal your bags will have a higher chance than normal for being opened and searched, and stuff going awol. Just a caution. Is there anyway to mail/ship what you want to a final destination?
posted by edgeways at 4:04 PM on December 9, 2006

Just bring them with you. If you have less than what they'd think you'd try to distribute, you'll be fine.
posted by null terminated at 4:36 PM on December 9, 2006

We managed to get two cases of wine home from Napa a few weeks ago in our checked luggage with no problems. We had cardboard wine cases from the vineyards and wrapped each bottle in bubble wrap. We put the cases in our suit cases and packed our clothes around them. The only issue was making sure that each case was less than $50 pounds which is the maximum weight for United, I'm not sure about the other carriers. You might want to wrap each beer in a ziplock though as the bottles are not as well sealed as winebottles.
posted by octothorpe at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2006

I've traveled internationally and domestically with booze in the checked luggage plenty of times, and never once had an issue. They've got more important things to look for, seriously.

Only thing you need to worry about is breakage / leakage. Above help should guide you in that, but for heavens sake don't skip the ziplock bags, unless you want to be that friend that reeks of beer all vacation long. Better ways to be that guy...
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:58 PM on December 9, 2006

Socks and ziplocs are your friend.

But you should really just consider popping north if you're going anywhere in SC that's near the state line. NC lifted the cap on beer sales last year, so there's a full selection of high-gravity beers these days. (Contrariwise, North Carolinians tend to go south for the liquor selection.)
posted by holgate at 5:43 PM on December 9, 2006

I brought 5 bottles of whiskey from California to Massachusetts in something like this (it was a 6-bottle configuration not pictured, but similar to those). I wonder if you could get one at a Chicagoland liquor store; mine was only about $10.

As to problems with laws/rules, there were none. I was obviously checking a box rather than a suitcase, so the check-in guy asked what was in it, so I opened it and showed him. Also, neither of those states had a law against whiskey, but, like whatzit, I cannot imagine that you'll be challenged for taking some beer with you on a domestic flight.

As to breakage problems... the wine shipping boxes seemed to handle the mild airline abuse quite well; I also shipped a delicate beer glass in the same crate and it came through fine. Now, whiskey is not carbonated, so I don't know if you would have any problems with depressurization. I think cargo holds are at least similar to cabin pressures, or else everyone's toiletries would explode. Good luck.
posted by rkent at 5:57 PM on December 9, 2006

Is this a reasonable proposition or am asking for trouble in the form of spewed or broken bottles

I recently had a flight with a window directly overlooking the place where they were unloading the baggage while we were waiting to disembark. They would literally throw some of the bags several feet onto the carts, with some amount of violence, so based on this I would assume that breakage is definitely possible. Definitely you want ziploc bags, maybe multiple layers, and some clothes in different luggage just in case.
posted by advil at 6:52 PM on December 9, 2006

I bought a Magnum (1.5L) of Flemish beer back from the Netherlands in my checked luggage. No one cared. Beer transferred fine. I packed clothing around it.
posted by umlaut at 8:36 AM on December 10, 2006

Best answer: How I wrap Trappist beer for shipping:
1) Wrap in several layers of plastic wrap
2) Tape all around the wrap (the plastic protects the labels from the tape)
3) Bag in 2 layers plastic bags, twist-tied separately (the tape protects the bags from being cut. The bags protect your stuff and everyone else's from being soaked in beer)
4) Wrap this all in old towels. (protection against little leaks).
5) You may wish to bag again.
6) Some boxing would be nice after this.

Over kill, perhaps, but broken bottles leak into your luggage, and then leaks into everyone else's stuff, too.

You may wish to ask yourself whether anyone in South Carolina deserves to be blessed with the drinking of such fine beer they passed laws against.
posted by Goofyy at 2:05 AM on December 11, 2006

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