View Full Version : Shipping Mead by Air

07-07-2011, 07:28 PM
Greetings everybuddy.

It's been a few months since we last communicated. I'm the guy who's trying to set up a cottage industry, home meadery for the making of Passion Fruit mead. Thanks for the past feedback.

While I am still an amateur mead maker, I am going thru all the local state, municipal & federal paperwork to be able to sell my mead to the public.

Recently, I wanted to compete in a wine competion, mead category so I printed the online registration form and went to the local U.S. Post Office with an empty 750 ml bottle of wine to ask what was the correct way to package two bottles to send stateside (I am in Puerto Rico) to compete.

Can't be done they said. Sept. 11, Homeland Security, etc. So, I visited the local Fedex office. Can't be done unless you're a commercial entity with an account/contract with them. Contacted UPS. Same feedback.

Anyhoo, I decided that if I was going to go commercial in a year or so, why not ask for the details on how to open an account/contract with UPS. The rep said I had to register the business with the local authorities and complete a course on HAZMAT (hazardous materials). Ok, so I did some cyber searching and from what I read online, I gather it seems HAZMAT courses are more appropriate for the shippers who have to handle flammable liquids on their aircraft. All I should know is how to package the bottles. Styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap, anyone? They offer HAZMAT courses online but it seems odd that I should have to pay $600 + - when I am not the one who handles the actual air transportation of the flammable liquid.

What, people no longer mail each other homemade wine, mead, etc., via air during the holidays anymore?

I intend to call the local ATF office in San Juan tomorrow to ask about this HAZMAT requirement by Fedex and UPS. Seems odd.

In summation, anyone have any info on HAZMAT courses with regards to mailing bottles of alcoholic beverages by air?

Thanks for your time and advice.

07-07-2011, 09:32 PM
The HAZMAT course requirement may be a new wrinkle, in these post-911 days. I have never heard of UPS or Fedex requiring that of their commercial accounts before now.

However, it is true that shipping alcoholic beverages via the US Postal Service is against their regulations. That's why commercial meaderies ship via UPS or Fedex when they ship directly to home customers.

As far as home meadmaking is concerned, while it may or may not technically be against federal regulations to ship your homemade product (there are some conflicting sections of various laws that make it ambiguous overall), some folks from the Gotmead community have verified with local TTB and ATF offices that they are not interested in actively intervening in the casual shipment of a few bottles of your homebrew - even if you are sending them in bulk to competitions. So, we've been able to successfully conduct events like the Mazer Cup International, with literally hundreds of home entries, all successfully shipped to Colorado from every state in the union. However, we've not yet had an entry from Puerto Rico - so you may have something unique to get through in order to get your stuff to the mainland US.

That said, Fedex and UPS do not have any explicit prohibitions against shipping homebrew via their services, HOWEVER in both companies' cases, they do allow each local office or agent to, at the agent's discretion, refuse to accept an item for shipment if it is deemed to be potentially hazardous. It appears that your local Fedex and UPS reps are being more anal than most when it comes to considering how to classify your product.

Many of us, in the past, have successfully shipped our homebrew simply by practicing a form of "don't ask, don't tell." My local Fedex office wants me to declare the contents of a package, but usually they are satisfied with a less than clear statement on the order of "liquid yeast culture samples," or "vinegar base," or the like. My local UPS store in Golden has seen me so often that they don't even ask what is in my boxes any more -they just ship 'em! ;D

As far as the best way to pack those inherently fragile glass bottles, I prefer to use styrofoam bottle shippers (see here: http://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-5809/Wine-Shippers/Wine-Bottle-Shippers-1-Bottle-Pack -- they also come in 2 and 3 bottle configurations). Those puppies are impervious to all but the worst that the shippers can throw at them, and they are reusable! But you can also simply wrap each bottle individually with a layer or two of bubble wrap, tape it securely around the bottle, then package the bottles in boxes filled with packing peanuts, crushed or shredded paper, or something else lightweight and able to absorb a bit of crush shock. That technique usually works fine. We've even seen home entries for the MCI sent to us wrapped in disposable baby diapers (you know who you are!!), and they safely survived handling and cross-country shipment by Fedex. You can be creative, as long as your packing material is lightweight and able to protect against mild to moderate impact force.

Good luck with shipping some of your meads! BTW - I offer a "mead exchange policy" whereby anyone who sends me a mead for evaluation can get one of mine in exchange; all you've got to do is ask me! ;D

07-07-2011, 11:06 PM
Hmmm, hypothetically speaking and I mean hypothetically!

If a person has already gone to three different places asking about shipping alcohol from Puerto Rico to the USA, they will all be on the lookout for that person when he/she/it walks into their store.

Such a person, hypothetically speaking, would do better to get a simple Styrofoam Shipper, pack their mead, take it to a different shipper in a different location from the ones already visited, and send it. If asked about alcohol, the sender would say something like "No, just some gifts for my cousins in the US."

Don't ask, don't tell, don't leave a real home address.

07-08-2011, 01:00 AM
That's what I have done when I've shipped mead, just pack it up well and if they ask say it's liquid. So far no problem, but it is expensive.

But that's CONUS, don't know about PR.

07-27-2011, 08:34 PM
Greetings All...

My apologies for not giving my thanks for your replies in a timely manner. I read your responses days ago but the weather being constantly rainy, windy, etc., in the Caribbean my internet connection was crashing several times a day as I was trying to fill out and print online forms from ATF/TTB over several days. I visited the TTB office on the island yesterday and it's really promising. I just need two more forms to submit. It's been a long haul.

Several times, I reminded myself to thank you guys but I kept forgetting. Hmm, maybe Gingko Biloba mead for my memory?

Anyhoo, I even found a Facebook page for the mead competion, Indy International Wine Competition, in which I wanted to participate as an amateur and posted a question on how the out of state competitors got their mead to the contest but there hasn't been a resposne yet.

Oh, well, maybe next year in the professional category... Yeah, right... Later everybuddy...

07-28-2011, 01:10 AM
Passion fruit mead... Now there's something I would like to try. I love the juice, the mead must be great too! Best wishes in your efforts.

07-28-2011, 10:13 PM
Greetings Echostatic et al... I have Passion Fruit vines growing in the garden and up over the house onto the roof garden. Orange colored butterflies have been swarming over the vines and I've been battling their caterpillar offspring with Neem oil which doesn't do much so I have been swatting them off the vines by hand. If it's not one thing, it's another. I should have plenty of Passion Fruit by the time I get the TTB Ok to mix the must.

Thanx again & later all...

07-29-2011, 02:51 PM
Greetings Everybuddy. Laughing and "projectile vomiting" at the same time.

Got a reply to my email to UPS in which I asked why state-to-state shipping of wines by private citizens is allowed but not for private citizens in U.S. Territories.

For whatever it's worth, here's the following schpiel straight from the horse's mouth.

Dear Vic:

Thank you for your comments. We appreciate your business and hope that you will afford us the opportunity to earn your trust and reestablish your confidence in our service. Accordingly, I have researched your request further. Unfortunately, we are unable to change the policy or restrictions set up by UPS and the origin and destination countries. Per shipments shipping from Puerto Rico to the United States, commercial wine and beer shipments are accepted to all US states (including District of Columbia), except for Massachusetts, for contracts pre-approved with UPS International Special Commodities. Personal shipments of wine, beer and alcohol are strictly prohibited within the UPS system

I sincerely apologize for the unpleasant experience that you have had with UPS and for any frustration this situation has caused.

Please contact us if you need any additional assistance.

Chowan G.
UPS Customer Service

Gollygeewillakers, tea party in the Caribbean anyone? Beam me up, Scotty. Warp trillion, Mr. Zulu. Destination: Apha Centauri , Zzzzzzoooooommmmmmmm! ;D

07-29-2011, 06:12 PM
I especially like this part:

Dear Vic:

I sincerely apologize for the unpleasant experience that you have had with UPS and for any frustration this situation has caused.

Chevette Girl
08-06-2011, 01:53 AM
At least it seems to indicate that commercial shipments will be possible.

08-12-2011, 07:18 PM
My sister, back in the dawn of time, had some reps from various shipping companies (USPS included) come and talk with her business class. One of the topics that came up was shipping illegal items (cocaine, pot, etc). USPS said they regularly inspect, x-ray, open, etc packages to ensure the contents are legal. They can do this, because they're the government (sort of). UPS and FedEx said they never open packages, but suspicious things will be sent to the police for inspection.

Lesson: Carefully ship illegal items via a private carrier.

Also, in regards to safely shipping bottles, these products might be of interest to you:

http://www.aerocellpkg.com/applications/wine - Southwest Airlines use this product. When I travel I always take some homebrew, and for a very reasonable $5/bottle Southwest packs up the bottles in AeroCell. I have confirmed that you can throw these packs against a concrete wall without breaking the bottle.

http://winepacks.com - Can't comment on how well these work, but their rep was pretty friendly, and offered to send me free samples.

http://winediaper.com/ - Not as good as the previous, but they claim that the absorbent material inside will suck up an entire bottle of wine. Good for avoiding suspicious looking packages when shipping.

Dan McFeeley
08-12-2011, 09:08 PM
When shipping samples of your wares via, say, UPS, it's best to go to one of their smaller contracted shipping centers rather than a major center. These guys generally don't ask questions. In my area, we have an auto parts store that is also contracted for UPS -- I send my meads through them, never had any problems.