Travel well with bellies full
Of lively ales and lagers pure
Your suitcase safe from push and pull
And beer intact to love once more
I love beer.
I love travel.
When these two things come together, it’s hard to catch me in a bad mood. Sometimes I can’t even wait to arrive at my destination before having a travel beer, only hours into my trip.
And like anyone returning from a lovely few days or more of adventure in another land, I always want to bring some part of the trip home with me. So that is exactly what I do – bring home a suitcase of beer!
Before we embark on the journey where we launch your beer thousands of feet into the sky and then safely bring it back to earth for your consumption, I need to bring your attention to a few issues of legality.
Make Sure It’s Legal
Pay close attention to the alcohol laws of the states and countries you will be flying to and from. Utah, one of the most unfriendly places for beer, doesn’t want you bringing beer, or any alcohol for that matter, into the state. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, there is always a small chance your prized beer could be disposed of in front of your thirsty, crying eyes.
Between breakage and confiscation, flying with beer is a gamble. Keep this in mind when purchasing beer for travel. That being said, I have never had anything confiscated from my suitcase when flying into Salt Lake City, Utah, even when TSA leaves a note that they have done a routine check (knock on wood).
Phew! The legal stuff is over. Now, about that suitcase…
The kind of suitcase you use is really not that big of a deal. I imagine hardshell suitcases would provide better protection than softshell, but I can’t say this with certainty. What I do know is I’ve used different sizes of softshell suitcases before with great success. It’s all in how you pack them.
That Weight Issue
Concerned about your weight? You should be, especially with all that beer! I’m talking about the weight of your suitcase, of course. Most airlines charge around $25 per checked bag for average janes like me. You can typically cram up to 50lbs of transportable goodness in your suitcase before they’ll slap you with a nasty overweight baggage fee. You’ll have a chance to remove a few items before they charge you, so don’t panic too hard on the way to the airport. Just make sure those items are acceptable to carry on the plane if you have to remove them. I’ve routinely gotten away with a 52 pound suitcase, but you might not want to push it. Being kind to the travel clerk usually helps. Shell out ten shekels for a luggage scale to avoid showing the whole airport your suitcase innards.
The pack is what it’s all about, and I don’t mean Green Bay. The way you pack your suitcase can spell life or death for your carbonated cargo. I have luckily managed to avoid anything more than a leaky bottle on a flight. I imagine a completely damaged bottle would result in some sort of time consuming collection of your soggy suitcase at baggage claim. That is, if you didn’t pack it right.
Triple Bag It
Three ziploc or similar bags should help keep leaks in check. The thicker the better. The idea here is that if breakage occurs, it is retained within the bags and does not ruin all other contents of your suitcase. A 1 gallon ziploc will comfortably fit three 12 oz. bottles, or tightly fit three short 500ml bottles (Red Rock Brewing or Ayinger sized). Place the bottles in the bag as you normally would and seal it. Then place another one-gallon ziploc over the top and seal it at the opposite end of the first bag. There should be a seal at the top (first bag) and bottom (second bag) of the bottles. Now, place this double bagged beer in a third ziploc bag that is 2.5 gallons. This third bag will hold two double bagged beer triplets for a total of 6 beers per 2.5 gallon bag. Alternatively, a 1 gallon ziploc can hold one 750ml bottle or one 22oz bomber, of which the 2.5 gallon bag can hold three.
The Pants Roll
Your beer babies are all bagged up, and now it’s time to tuck them in. Whatever sort of clothing you have in your suitcase will now double up as padding for your beer. Pants offer great protection and aren’t likely to unwrap themselves from around your brews, but use whatever you have. I like to place the 3 or 6 pack of beer in the butt part of the jeans and then wrap the legs around for extra layers. If you want to use bubble wrap, go for it. But it’s likely something you’ll have to bring or buy, which will potentially take up more space in your suitcase than you have to spare. I like to use things I already have to avoid over packing.
Anything not used to wrap directly around your triple bagged beer is now going to be used to cradle your swaddled beer baby in the heart of your suitcase. Place any and everything left above, below, and next to your beer to protect it from bumps and potential mishandling. Now make sure the contents are tight so nothing will shift. Zip your suitcase extender closed for a snugger fit (if you have one). Once you think your beer can survive a tumble down the stairs, you know she’s ready for take off.
Don’t forget, just like love, flying with beer is a gamble. You might end up with a shattered bottle and a broken heart, or you might end up lucky. Let’s hope for the latter!