Checking a Bag with Beer for a Flight

Leinenkugel's 15 Beer, Wearable Fan Pack

Leinenkugel’s 15 Beer, Wearable Fan Pack

Traveling back from Wisconsin/Minnesota, I decided to purchase a Leinenkugel fan pack of Honey Weiss beer with the sole reason being the cut out cheesehead. I had no idea how to properly go about checking a bag with beer for a flight back to Pittsburgh, so, I’ll share my experience below.

Minnesota’s craft brewing scene is up and coming, so, I figured this would be a great opportunity to bring back some brews on my flight on United Airlines.

Little did I know this process is relatively simple. (And yes, I know that I’ve blogged about why checking a bag is a bad idea. But, this is for beer.)

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.57.41 AM

According to United’s website, checked bags must follow this –

The maximum exterior dimension (length + width + height) of standard checked baggage is 62 inches

Since I was flying economy, my bag could not be heavier than 50 pounds. This would cost me only $25 to check this “bag” in online.

Now, that’s just United’s checked baggage policy. So, I had my upper bounds set for the weight and dimensions for this package, but, I want to make sure that the TSA won’t be seizing ~$50 of beer. Using Google, I was able to find a blog post by the TSA that outlines some tips for traveling with alcoholic beverages.

TSA Food Prohibited Items Table

TSA Food Prohibited Items Table – You can bring baba ganoush on a flight in checked baggage if you want.

There are four primary guidelines for checking in beer or alcohol on a flight –

  • Any amount of alcohol greater than 3.4 ounces must be packed in checked baggage.
  • Alcoholic beverages with more than 70% alcohol content (140 proof), including 95% grain alcohol and 150 proof rum, cannot be packed in checked luggage.
  • Travelers may take up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% per person as checked luggage if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask.
  • Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol content are not subject to hazardous materials regulations.

Basically, I have to fit the single, bolded guideline above since my beer is all below 24% alcohol.

The beer prepped with the shipping supplies

The beer prepped with the shipping supplies – Bent Paddle, Leinenkugel, Surly, & New Glarus are the brews.

Luckily for me, my dad had just moved from his old place and had a ton of packing tape, bubble wrap, and cardboard that I could utilize for making my package safe & secure for the long journey ahead.

Tips for packaging the beer:

  • Place bottle into a dirty sock
  • Wrap with bubble wrap & newspaper
  • Put each bottle(s) into a ziploc bag
  • Pack the shipment tightly so nothing breaks – use extra newspaper or cardboard to prevent the bottles from shaking.

So, now the beer is all packed away.

This lead me to my next worry – Will the beer freeze in the cargo hold of an airplane?

Luckily, the beer community is knowledgable about packing beer to take home. Steasy66 from the BeerAdvocate forums cites his experience –

On multiple 8 hour flights I had no issues with this. I took cans, small format bottles, and large format bottles. ABV’s as low as 5%.

One flyer even brought back 48 750mL bottles from Belgium without any problems. Time for me to hold my breath for the 3 hours I’ll be up in the air.

Want to know how or if my beer made it back to Pittsburgh in one-piece, checkout this post.

Want to read more about other peoples’ experiences packing beer – checkout this BeerAdvocate post.


Life-Long Learner, Explorer, & Web Developer. Currently a Software Engineer at Jazz.

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