When I left for Belgium and the Netherlands last Christmas, my suitcase weighed 22 pounds. When I returned, it tipped the baggage check scales at 49. Wrapped inside a week’s dirty clothes were bottles of exotic beers mostly unattainable in America. When I tell friends I travel on airlines with alcohol they are often shocked. “Is that legal?!” they wonder. It certainly is, but pesky legalities shouldn’t be your biggest concern: It’s getting those prized gems home.
You’re going to want to underpack. Do you really need your 10 best brewery t-shirts? Cut that down to the most arcane five, and perhaps only two bottles of beard creme. You need your bag to be light and spacious. I try to never leave with more than three-quarters of my suitcase filled and its weight under 25 pounds as most commercial airlines have a 50-pound limit before charging additional fees.
Bottles weigh as much as 3.5 pounds for a heavily punted, corked-and-caged 750mL to as little as 2 pounds for your standard 12-ouncer. (I try to avoid traveling with flimsy cans, if possible.) Thus, if you’ve packed shrewdly, you’ll have afforded yourself room for about seven to 10 bottles per bag, so only chase the truly elite stuff.
For that European trip, I strictly focused on Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen lambics and oddball De Molen one-offs. Nothing worse than filling your bag with heavy bottles and laboring 2,000 miles home only to find your corner grocery had that Girardin Gueuze all along.
My wife’s a wuss and never lets me pack any of my beer in her bag, dead certain this will be the trip where it explodes and ruins her lady-wear. But I’m still batting 1.000 and don’t exactly fear my “haute couture” getting ruined should the unthinkable finally occur. Bottles are fairly resilient, and a few cushioning garments are enough to prevent cavalier baggage tossers from screwing up your overseas bounty. Because let’s be honest: Getting great beer back to America was kinda the reason for your trip in the first place.
HOW TO GET BEERS HOME
1. Wrap bottles in dirty undies.
2. Carry a bag scale to ensure you meet requirements.
3. Wheel your heavy luggage and skip the duffel.
4. Check it under the plane. No carry-ons.
5. Claim it with U.S. Customs. Don’t worry, it’s legal.
6. Drink. You’ve been traveling all day, time to enjoy your booty.