You have fine-tuned your favorite recipe. Won multiple competitions with it and of course bragged to all of you friends and relatives about how accomplished a home brewer you are. Now your uncle in Tennessee wants to try some of this award winning beer, as do your in-laws in Pennsylvania that you visit once a year. Getting beer to your friends and colleagues is as easy as filling a growler or a couple of bottles, but sending them to your family and friends across great distances is no short order.
What to send?
Your uncle, wherever he lives, may be a macro brew man but that doesn’t mean that he won’t appreciate and enjoy your tasty homebrew. Sending a small sampler pack of some of the beers you have right now with maybe three varieties would be the best way to convey how much you have learned. However not all beers travel well and if you are going to be shipping in the summer months, including ice packs to keep the bottles chilled may be a prudent measure. Instead of sending the bottle you have laying around, bottle fresh beer and use an oxygen absorbing cap, this will increase your chances the beer would get too oxidized. If you bottle-condition, wait until the beer is carbonated to ship it, you don’t want your uncle to receive flat beer. Most styles of beers travel just fine. Aside from the heat and risk of oxidation, the only other change that may affect your brew is the hop flavor. Hop flavor can drop out drastically if the bottle is handled too violently.
Sharing beer with people that live near you doesn’t usually require any special treatment. The experience of drinking your beer and talking with you, the brewer, about it should be enough. When you ship beer, unfortunately you do not get that same personal interaction, so adding a few bells and whistles to your bottle can make the experience that much more enjoyable for your uncle. Most local home brew shops carry bottle labels of some kind. This can be a fun way to personalize your tasty brew. Besides a logo and a beer name, you could put vital statistics about the beer itself, maybe even what competitions it has won or how many batches you have brewed. Of course as far as the content of the label goes you have no limits because its homebrew! You can also improve the bottle itself to make it something more than the run of the mill 12-ouncer. There are an endless variety of bottle styles. Picking the perfect one can make the experience that much better.
When packaging the bottles you want to ensure that they are not in direct contact with each other or the walls of the box. First, bubble wrap the bottles, then place them in resealable bag. The bubble wrap is the last line of defense. In case a bottle breaks the bag will ensure that your box doesn’t start leaking beer. If that happens you will lose the entire shipment even if it is just one bottle. Layer the box with packing peanuts or some kind of soft packing material on the bottom to keep the bottle elevated. Add the bottle to the box as to not let them touch the walls; try not to pack them in to tight. Once you have added the bottle, fill up the box with the same soft material ensuring that you get every little nook. Once you seal up the box, make sure to place some fragile stickers on it in hopes that the shipping company pays attention. You can send the beer through any package service except the US Postal Service. It is illegal to ship beer using the postal service.
Sending beer for the holidays is not only a fun way to get your beer out and tasted by more people, but it can also be a rewarding experience for those who get the privilege. It is also a much cheaper way to spread some holiday joy.