View Full Version : Shipping my entry

12-06-2007, 05:18 PM
I know there are a lot of competitions around the country and I'm just curious if anyone else ran into the problems I had trying to ship my entry. I entered last year but I dropped off the entry in person. This year I wasn't making a trip to Denver anytime soon so I went to the local UPS store. Naturally, the entry was addressed to Beer At Home.

That was the first red light. Next, I used a box that formerly contained a case of 375 ml bottles and said "cork" and "24 bottles" in several places. Red light #2. When asked about the contents, I said it was a marinade I was returning.

"Any alcohol?", I was asked.

"Nope", I shook my head.

"Are you sure there's no alcohol in here?"

"Yes", I replied.

Thirty minutes later I had a call from the lady at the UPS store. She had actually gone online and saw that Beer At Home didn't stock marinade and demanded I return to claim the box. When I arrived, I admitted that, yes, the box contained a mildly fermented liquid and went on to ask whether it was ok to ship perfume and pointed out that the alcohol content was much higher.

"We're trained to ship perfume and alcohol isn't the determining factor anyway. Fermented beverages are illegal to ship without a license. What if this got into the hands of a 12-year-old?"

"Heaven forbid", I replied.

I took my refund and proceeded to Mail Express where I received the same third degree and was asked the same series of questions. Rather than make another trip across town, I admitted that the marinade was indeed lightly fermented. I was chastised for not being more forthcoming and sent packing.

I've made different arrangements and will have the package hand delivered but my question is this: how in the world do the thousands (tens of thousands?) of competition entires make it past the gatekeepers and get to their destinations. Is there in legal way to ship these entries or are these highly regarded competitions complicit in skirting the law?

12-06-2007, 07:02 PM
If you're not a commercial producer with the appropriate distribution licensing you're legally not allowed to ship any alcoholic beverages via US Mail. UPS is notorious for this especially if it is obvious that you're shipping bottles of something.

It would be illegal to advise you to deceive the shipping company.

Hypothetically I suppose one could use a standard wine shipping container with no printed detail of what is inside the box. I'm guessing that one would then take that inconspicuous and tightly packed container to FedEX for shipping. If one were asked what the box contained, I suppose one would say "inert yeast samples for analysis" or "water samples for analysis." If that were true then I suppose one would abbreviate the name of the company. For purely illustrative purposes a company name like "Wine at Home" could be abbreviated "W @ HOME" or possibly "W. A. H."

One would probably declare the value of the contents at $0.00 and smile a lot.

That's all hypotherical of course.



12-06-2007, 07:58 PM

you can not send it even as a gift??? say to a family memeber

back to the regular thread


12-06-2007, 07:59 PM
In my recent experience, there is a US shipper that doesn't require a declaration of contents. I've shipped 3 items within the past few months with absolutely no questions asked. Of course I know the game, so I never use a box with any markings from any alcoholic beverage maker, and I take care to use boxes that don't look like they'd be carrying bottles in them. BTW, my favorite new (I used to use UPS exclusively) shipper's name begins with F and ends with X, FWIW! :icon_thumright:

12-06-2007, 09:47 PM
*hangs head*

I promised Oskaar that I would write a "how to ship your mead" info sheet for the IMF website. I have not gotten it done. Life got in the way of my good intentions.

One of the things that I would suggest is that you wrap each bottle in a diaper. That does 2 things. 1. cushion the bottle so that it doesn't break and 2. should it break, the diaper will absorb the liquid so it doesn't make a mess. I'd also wrap each diaper wrapped bottle in at least 3 layers of bubble wrap.

Does anyone have a feel for what the flash point of a say 14% mead is? I was wondering if we shipped it as a Combustible Liquid if it would ship easier.

Our local home brew store acts as a gathering place for our homebrew club and then ships out. I don't know if he has the "special licence" to do that but it's thought. However, this being said, he shipped 27 bottles of homebrew to the Queen of Beer competition and 9 were broken. One of the women who brewed and shipped had all of her bottles broken. She was unable to compete as that was the last of that batch. Major bummer.

I wonder if the BJCP or AHA are doing any work on making it easier to ship 12 oz. samples to club events. Any one on this list who is a Big Cheese in either of these fine groups?


12-06-2007, 09:54 PM
No cheesyness here! :laughing4:

If you go to the Free the Grapes website you can see the type of shipping woes there are for even commercial ventures.



12-07-2007, 01:30 AM
In my recent experience, there is a US shipper that doesn't require a declaration of contents. I've shipped 3 items within the past few months with absolutely no questions asked. Of course I know the game, so I never use a box with any markings from any alcoholic beverage maker, and I take care to use boxes that don't look like they'd be carrying bottles in them. BTW, my favorite new (I used to use UPS exclusively) shipper's name begins with F and ends with X, FWIW! :icon_thumright:

In my single shipping experience so far, this is true. No declaration, no questions. Just pay and go. I've heard "wine vinegar" is also a popular item to ship (even via USPS based on stories from former postal workers in Sonoma).

12-07-2007, 08:19 AM
I understand the ways that have been used to ship home produced fermented beverages, and I've shipped bottles to family members and friends in the past but this time it was different. As I stated, I tried UPS and then at a location which uses both Fedex and DHL. Both asked me on more than one occasion, does it contain alcohol? This places one in the position of lying. I can understand, and agree, to declaring the shipment as "marinade" or "yeast samples" because the descriptions aren't technically wrong. However when they follow up with a direct question, it places one in a position of liability. Both locations had a sign placed on the door stating they had the right to open any packages being shipped, and both indicated they regularly do so.

Keep in mind that I don't live in the Bible Belt. I live in a state where we're fortunate enough to be able to order adult beverages from out of state and have them delivered to our door. I also work in the trucking industry and I know that once a shipper signs a bill of lading declaring the contents to be as described, the problem is on the shipper and not the carrier. I don't know if something happened locally that caused a problem but problems there are.

Don't ask, don't tell seems to be working well in some areas, and has worked for me in the past. This time I wasn't so fortunate. I guess there really isn't any way to legally ship to these competitions and, unless one lives close enough to drop the entries off in person, then he's SOL.

12-07-2007, 08:55 AM
It may also be the time of the year as people are sending lots of things via mail their family, friends and loved ones. I think the key here was that the destination name was a red flag, and with the heightened awareness of the season, and possible recent reaffirmation of shipping laws within the companies that provide ground shipping services. It's very unfortunate that home producers are put into a position of having to skirt the law in order to ship to a competition.


David Baldwin
12-07-2007, 02:23 PM
Last year I took my bottles to a combined services packaging and shipping store. I told them exactly what I had and where and why it needed to be shipped. They were very helpful and even wrapped the bottles and double boxed the entire thing for a safe trip.

As to shipping via USPS, I can tell you that they won't accept alcoholic beverage for delivery. I have found that they will however accept "Balsamic Vinegar Kits - Mother of Vinegar not included."


12-07-2007, 02:27 PM
Ok we have all done, myself included but now that I'm a licensed alcohol shipper with FedEx it is not a problem. If you want to be total above board go to your local wine shop and ask if they ship. Many do and they can process and label package. They may charge you a labeling fee but if you bribe them with homebrew or make a nice purchase in their shop some my just charge you FedEx charge. Alcohol shipment do have an extra fee tacked on and they may not be able to go to the state you want FedEx, UPS and DHL are the only three that have alcohol programs (that I am aware of) and USPS will never knowingly take alcohol from anyone (businesses included)

I sell packaging material and shipping at cost for the local homebrew guys. I used to be very active in the scene so I know how much of a pain it can be and sympathize.

Matt Maples
Liquid Solutions Inc.

12-18-2007, 12:54 PM
Try sending it via DHL, had very good luck with them. Marked them as "samples for analysis".

12-18-2007, 04:49 PM
Unless you treat it with chemicals or sterile filter the batch, you can always call it "Yeast Samples" and be telling the truth... ::)