Sunday 10 June 2012

Taking beer bottles on planes

Something that often comes up in my beer-related discussions is the matter of carrying bottles of beer on airplanes. In fact, someone mentioned it again just yesterday, regretting he couldn’t bring bottles of Belgian beer home with him on the flight from Brussels.

It's true that, given the post-9/11 security hoo-ha, you’re not allowed to take bottles in your carry-on baggage. And after the “shoe bomber” and the “underpants bomber”, you're not even allowed to bring it onboard with you in a more intimate location. If you try, you’ll be faced with a bittersweet drink-it-or-lose-it policy at best, and at worst, an all-expenses-paid trip to Cuba where you’ll be fitted for an unfashionable orange jumpsuit and given extremely limited access any to Belgian beer whatsoever.

But you can put those bottles underneath the plane in your checked-in luggage. Really, you can.

Wait, I hear you say, won’t they explode in my suitcase and destroy all my stuff?

No, not if you’re careful...

It’s really quite simple. Wrap each bottle separately in crumpled newspapers or old clothes -- anything to pad them up a bit. Then, put each one in a plastic bag just in case. Never let glass touch glass. Lay them neatly in a hard-shell suitcase, surrounded by the rest of your clothes and what have you.

They won't blow up or anything: the cargo hold is pressurised just like the passenger cabin. As long as the bottles are well padded and can't jostle around, everything will be fine.

I’ve done this about 47 million times (give or take 46 and a bit million), and I’ve never had a bottle break on me in transit. What’s more, I’ve never had a bottle stolen by a hop-head customs official, and I’ve never had my suitcase diverted to Guantanamo.

Weight is of course an issue. Bottles of beer aren’t light, so you can’t stuff a hundred of them in your trunk. But you can pack quite a few and still remain within an airline’s baggage weight limit.

One other caution: once you arrive at your destination, let the bottles stand in a quiet place for a couple weeks before opening them. Their contents will need time to settle after being shaken by savage baggage handling machines.

There you go then: problem solved. No, I won’t take legal or financial responsibility for damages incurred by anyone following this advice if it all goes badly wrong for some strange reason. But it’ll be fine, don’t worry.


  1. I just saw this page and I remembered your post :

  2. I recently built a carrying case for my trip to Belgium. It worked like a dream and meets all airline regulations. It basically lets me safely transport a case of beer. Here's a link to the instructions I wrote up.

  3. Okay, question: I live in the lowlands of Bolivia, but I sometimes want to take my own home-brewed bottles up to La Paz or highland cities, which are 3500+ meters up. Am I going to cause explosions doing this?

    1. The pressure change wont be severe enough and the bottles will be fine. Just remember to take care when opening them up at high altitude again. I've personally gone from Tarija to La Paz without any issues what so ever transporting wine and beer. Just as long as you remember to check up on them every once in a while. It also depends on the type of bottle you are transporting it in. I personally prefer cork since it does give a certain amount of breathability.

  4. But can you put those bottles underneath the plane in your checked-in luggage?

  5. Styrofoam containers are great, as well. Some airlines will even sell you a sort of inflated cozy. Great blog.

  6. cheap airlines like ryanair charge a ridiculous subsidy to put luggage in the hold

  7. If you do open the bottles within a week after getting off the plane, will they still explode on you because of all the jostling? Or, will a few days be enough rest for them before opening?

  8. I second Alice Runion's question, and would like to know soon too! I'm traveling soon for a wedding, and would love to bring some nice beer.

  9. Leave them for a week before opening, I'd say...

  10. They will be fine after an hour or 2. International beer transporters do not have to quarantine the bottles weeks prior to delivery to pubs. Land in the morning drink in the afternoon.

  11. At least two and maybe three Chimay (a white, a blue, and a red) I recently transported lost content during the flight, but remained sufficiently pressurized to make an enthusiastic pop when decapped. Now I'm worried about the remaining 9, and whether I can continue to age them... :(


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