Can I Mail Beer to a Friend? A Complete Guide

Yes, please – that’s my first answer! I’d like to think we’re all friends now, so if anybody wants to send me a few bottles of their latest hoppy IPA, all donations are gratefully received!

But seriously shipping beer, or any alcohol for that matter, is not easy. It’s a lot harder than it should be. It’s not like we’re trying to post Class A drugs or biohazardous materials, it’s just beer which you can buy from almost any convenience store or supermarket just a few blocks away.

Sending gifts to friends and loved ones is a common practice, especially during special occasions or holidays. Among the many gift ideas, alcoholic beverages, such as beer, often come to mind.

However, when it comes to shipments of alcohol, there are several legal and logistical considerations to take into account. In this guide, we will explore the rules and regulations surrounding mailing beer to a friend, providing you with the necessary information to ensure safe and legal delivery.

Top 10 Hints for Mailing Beer to a Friend

close view of two gray U.S mailboxes
Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash
  1. 1DON’T use USPS. (See the section below on the legality of shipping beer)
  2. Use UPS or FedEx and an online account. Always print your labels at home.
  3. If asked to declare on the label the contents of the package, write “YEAST SAMPLE” – kind of true!
  4. Use a strong sturdy double-walled box (or place one box inside another) for shipping and seal before you take it to the shipping company office or for pick up.
  5. Use plenty of filler material. Peanuts or bubble wrap tend to work very well.
  6. Avoid glass touching glass.
  7. TAPE, TAPE, TAPE, and more TAPE!
  8. Bottle Shippers available on Amazon can protect your beer even more.
  9. Mark the package as “FRAGILE.”(Although I’m not 100% convinced this makes too much difference!)
  10. Don’t ship beer in hot weather – it’s likely to explode or at the very least, spoil!

The Legality of Shipping Beer in the USA

white and blue van near green tree during daytime
Photo by Trinity Nguyen on Unsplash

In the United States, shipping alcohol is heavily regulated by federal agencies such as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

The TTB oversees the production, distribution, and taxation of alcohol, while the USPS alcohol regulations determine what can be shipped through their mail system.

Under federal law, it is generally illegal to use USPS to ship alcohol unless you hold a proper license. USPS regulations state that only licensed entities, such as manufacturers, licensed shippers, and authorized agents, can use their services for shipping alcohol. This means that individuals cannot use the USPS shipping process to mail beer or any other alcoholic products.

Private shipping carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, also have their own rules and restrictions when it comes to shipping alcohol. While some carriers do allow alcohol shipments, they often require the shipper to have the necessary permits and comply with specific packaging and shipping label requirements.

Basically, if you choose a private shipping agent like UPS or FedEx to ship alcohol, you may only be breaking company rules. If you use the US Postal Service (USPS) and ship alcohol without the correct licenses or authorization, you are committing a felony. Although I have never known anybody charged with committing a felony by the USPS for mailing beer, is it a risk you really want to take?

The USPS may be the cheaper option when compared with a private courier company and it has a larger distribution network across all 51 states, but there’s less chance of the beer getting there and more chance of you getting caught!

If you use a private shipping company like FedEx or UPS, the worst that will happen is your beer may not arrive at its final destination and you may get a stern ticking off from the company. With the USPS you may receive a visit from a federal agent and in the worst-case scenario be charged with a felony.

State Regulations on Shipping Beer

In addition to federal regulations, each state within the United States has its own specific beer shipping laws and regulations regarding shipping and receiving alcohol by mail.

These laws can vary widely, and it is essential to research and understand the specific regulations of both the origin and destination states before attempting to mail beer.

Some states allow direct-to-consumer shipments of beer, while others have restrictions or outright prohibitions. Some states may require the shipper to obtain a permit or license, while others may limit the amount of alcohol that can be shipped. Certain states also impose taxes or reporting requirements on alcohol shipments.

It is crucial to consult the alcohol control board or relevant regulatory agencies in the specific states involved to ensure compliance with their regulations.

Current State Regulations (2023)

Mailing a bottle of your favorite craft beer to a friend is actually legal in most states, but not all. It’s important you know the address where you will be sending the beer before a shipping company will accept the order.

The legality can vary by city, county, or state. There are however three basic rules which apply everywhere beer is allowed to be shipped if you want to stay within the law.

  1. You must declare to the carrier that a shipment contains alcohol, normally by putting a label on the outside of the package.
  2. You must pay an alcohol package fee.
  3. An adult signature has to be given when the package is received to ensure alcohol isn’t getting delivered to minors.

Shipping beer in-state is the easiest option as you will only need to know the local rules. Most in-state carriers will be fully aware and compliant with the special rules.

When you start shipping beer across state lines things get significantly more complex. Maybe you tried a craft beer in California and you ask a buddy to ship some to your home state. Or perhaps your buddy in upstate Washington would like to try some of your latest homebrewed beer. You’ll need to meet the regulations in both states although in general, transit through another state is acceptable as long as nobody physically opens the package in transit.

If it’s a case of sending a commercially produced beer as a gift, it’s often easier to check if any retailer or beer shippers in the state of the receiver stock that particular beer and can ship in-state.

StateShipping AlcoholNotes
ArkansasAllowedFrom on-site purchases
DelawareAllowedFrom on-site purchases
HawaiiAllowedShipping is expensive
IndianaAllowed216-liter limit per year
IowaAllowedNo beer shipments
KansasAllowed12 case limit per year
KentuckyAllowedFrom on-site purchases
LouisianaAllowed12 case limit per year
MaineAllowed12 case limit per year
MinnesotaAllowed2 cases per month
MississippiAllowedMust use state liquor store
MissouriAllowed2 cases per month
MontanaAllowed18 cases of wine, 12 cases of beer per year
NebraskaAllowed1 case per month
NevadaAllowedMust use an importer
New HampshireAllowed12 cases of wine, 27 gallons of beer per year
New JerseyAllowedN/A
New MexicoAllowedN/A
New YorkAllowed36 cases per year
North CarolinaAllowedN/A
North DakotaAllowed27 liters of wine, 288oz beer, 9 liters of spirits per year
OhioAllowed24 cases per year
OklahomaAllowed6 cases of wine per year
PennsylvaniaAllowed36 cases per year
Rhode IslandAllowedFrom on-site purchases
South CarolinaAllowedN/A
South DakotaAllowedN/A
UtahAllowedExtremely limited. Check laws.
VermontAllowed29-36 gallon annual limit by drink type
WashingtonAllowedNo beer shipments
West VirginiaAllowedConfusing rules, check the laws
WisconsinAllowed108 liters of wine limit
WyomingAllowed108 liters of wine limit

Shipping Beer Internationally

a large jetliner sitting on top of an airport tarmac
Photo by Lukas Souza on Unsplash

This is where things get very complicated.

Often, beer competitions will have a category for imported craft beers, or perhaps on your last trip to Europe you found some exquisite Belgian beers which no wine merchant seems to import at the moment.

If ordering direct from a trading partner, somebody at their end may be aware of the shipping options and licensing requirements, but you should always check the delivery of alcohol rules in your state as well.

Each country has its own customs regulations governing the importation of alcohol. Attempting to ship beer internationally without complying with these regulations can lead to confiscation, fines, or legal consequences.

When shipping beer internationally, it is essential to research and understand the customs regulations of both the country of origin and the destination country. Some countries may have strict limitations on the types and quantities of alcohol that can be imported.

Additionally, duties, taxes, and fees may be imposed on alcohol shipments, which must be paid by the recipient. It is advisable to consult with customs authorities or seek the assistance of a customs broker to ensure compliance with the country regulations of both countries involved.

It’s worth noting that some countries prohibit the importation of alcohol altogether or have specific alcohol shipping policies on certain types of alcohol. For example, some countries may prohibit the shipment of beer that exceeds a certain alcohol by volume content or contains certain ingredients.

It is crucial to thoroughly research the specific regulations and requirements of the destination country to avoid any legal issues.

How To Ship Beer

Although the shipping of beer is legal in most states, corner companies will still often insist on seeing an ABC license before accepting a shipment. Check in your area if any of the other private shipping companies have less strict policies for your location.

However, shipping beer by individuals is surprisingly more commonplace than you would imagine. It’s common knowledge among FedEx, UPS, and even USPS employees that people actively trade and ship their beer to friends or send homebrew beer to family members.

It’s always a good idea to open an account with your local FedEx or UPS if you are a craft beer fan who wants to ship beer regularly. This way you can print your shipping labels at home, have your package sealed when dropping off to avoid any embarrassing questions from the shipping clerk at the office, automate your payments and even get the occasional discount on your choice of shipping options.

Again we would encourage people not to ship beer through the USPS.

Always pack your beer before you take your consignment to the shipping office. Don’t ever pack your beer into the box there. Make sure to seal it properly with plenty of shipping tape and numerous “FRAGILE” stickers.

If anybody at the office asks you what’s in the box, don’t say beer. I’ve often told the clerk it’s collectible glassware, vintage sodas or olive oils, etc if pushed. Some of my buddies have even said live yeast samples which I suppose is more truthful in a way. To be completely honest though, I have only ever been asked once or twice, normally it’s no questions asked.

As long as the beer being sent is for personal consumption, most shipping companies turn a blind eye. It’s when beer for sale is being shipped without a brewery license or shipping authorization that you are committing a felony.

Packaging Your Beer For Shipping

box with beer bottles wrapped in a protective plastic film
Photo by Wander Fleur on Unsplash

You ship beer at your own risk. If beer during shipping should get damaged, leak, or the bottles explode, the package will be opened and the contents destroyed. You may receive a warning notification from some shipping companies and in the case of the USPS, a visit from a federal agent!

An assortment of shipping materials such as corrugated cardboard boxes, sticky bubble wrap, or specialized bottle shippers are available to reduce the risk of breakage to your beer bottles.

Normally I would buy in bulk from retailers such as Amazon as you will find that shipping companies like UPS and FedEx charge a significant markup on their basic materials.

Essential Packaging Materials

Before you decide which packaging materials you are going to need, you’ll have to decide if you are sending your beer in traditional glass bottles, plastic PET-style bottles, or cans.

Glass bottles are notoriously easier to break, but on the other hand, will preserve the beer much better than plastic containers. Glass bottles will also be significantly cheaper than aluminum cans and the cost of canning your beer.

  • Corrugated shipping boxes. You should ensure all boxes used for shipping are sturdy and don’t have any rips or holes in them. Double boxing your beer can prevent the boxes from getting a puncture or rip which may expose the bottles or cans inside.
  • Bubble Wrap is your best friend when shipping beer or other bottles and can even be used to wrap cans. Don’t skimp on it.
  • Gallon-size Ziploc bags or large plastic garbage bags. Placing your bottles inside a sealed zip-loc or garbage bag can protect the outer box from getting wet if one of the bottles should break or leak. If a box is damp or leaking it will be pulled by the shipping company and you will lose all the beer.
  • Rubber bands. Using rubber bands to keep the bubble wrap around your beer can cut down on the use of shipping tape which can be quite expensive. Not only will it allow the bubble wrap to be reused but will generally keep it in place better than tape.
  • Electrical tape is optional but can be a great way of wrapping the crown caps of any beer bottles to prevent them from getting caught on each other in the box or popping off and springing a leak.
  • Shipping tape. You are going to need plenty of it to ensure all the boxes are sealed properly and securely.
  • Additional fillers include polystyrene packing “peanuts”, putting more bubble wrap in the box, or even old newspapers to help protect the beer. I have even used actual packets of beer peanuts which gives my pal something to nibble on while enjoying my latest IPA creation.

Bottle Shippers

One of the safest ways to ship bottles of beer is in dedicated bottle shippers which look like a large egg box but are designed for a bottle of wine.

Your local wine merchant may already stock some bottle shippers or you could look online at retailers such as Amazon. Although designed for wine bottles, they will work just as well to protect a standard 12 – 16 oz beer bottle.

G Francis Wine Shipping Box 1 Bottle Wine Gift Box - 3pk Heavy Duty Packing Crate Mailing Boxes to Ship Wine and More
  • [Ensure Optimal Security]: Whether bringing home a specialty bottle of wine during your international travels or shipping a bottle of your homemade meads to family and friends, trust in the G Francis Wine Bottle Protector Single Wine Bottle Shipper Box 3 Pack Set
  • [Tried and Tested]: Molded inserts wrap around your glass bottles and are specially designed to prevent your wine bottles from breaking even when the long shipping box is dropped, kicked, or thrown
  • [Fits Your Needs]: Extra tall wine boxes for packaging or storage fit your standard 750mL bottle sizes; Can be used for red and white wine, mead, or even some liquor bottles

There are also plastic inflatable sleeves that can hold a bottle and even be reused.

Bottle Shipper Wine Packing for Travel, 54 Pack Alcohol Travel Bags for Liquor Inflatable Bubble Cushion Wrap Air Bag for Shipping Whiskey
  • 【54 Pcs Wine Protector Bags】: the inflatable bottle protector bag is wine shipping packaging when you airplane travel or move. The full-filled air column bags provide safe and secure heavy-duty cushion protection during transportation on the plane. Or you can pack a single bottle in this bottle shipper and put it in a shipping box or checked luggage.
  • 【Multi-purpose】: A wine shipper and a liquor carrier bag for packing beer, whisky, glass, food cans, cups, cosmetic containers, candle jars, electronic devices, and other fragile items. Great liquor packaging for shipping or moving.
  • 【Economic and Convenient Air Pouches】: Locked Air liquor bottle protector is economical, light, and portable, compared to a wine suitcase, wine shipping box, and wine tote bag. This wine mailer for airplane travel is also a storage bag for household use.

Can I Mail Beer to a Friend? – Final Thoughts

In short, yes! Although there are several legal implications to be considered, as long as you are mailing beer to a friend for personal consumption without any charge, there are many options that while not strictly legit, shouldn’t need for a license.

Officially it’s a felony to ship alcohol through the US postal service without a license, but I have yet to meet anybody among my craft beer-loving pals who have been charged.

Using a private courier company like UPS or FedEx is a safer option, just don’t tell them it’s beer, even though they know it goes on!

Companies like Beer Clubs or Monthly Beer Membership schemes will normally have a license to ship alcohol and use carriers that are allowed to ship beer. If you are shipping beer to a beer competition, check with the organizer if they have any beer shipping policies in place.

Internationally, beer shipping can get more complex and also quite costly. It’s always better to see if a local wine merchant or beer importer stocks your favorite overseas beer before trying to import yourself. Why not share the knowledge with your local beer wholesaler of any beers you may have discovered abroad,? Who knows he may be able to find it imported by one of his existing suppliers or even request if there is enough demand.

If anybody wants my address to send me some beer then I’ll quite happily oblige. What could be better than waking up to a package of tasty beer?

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