Hyper-local item exchange! February 22, 2016 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Mayor West's idea for a beer exchange seems like a pretty good one. Is it illegal? If not, can we do it? If yes, maybe we could do an exchange in the same spirit that is legal?

I might be willing to help facilitate this if there is enough interest, provided I can borrow from the expertise of the Secret Quonsar folks.
posted by cubby to MetaFilter-Related at 9:26 AM (59 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Watch out, shipping beer is expensive. (It was fun to some send my Secret Quonsar that one time, but oof.)
posted by maryr at 9:43 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm down to send out a few cans of Dry Dock.
posted by boo_radley at 9:59 AM on February 22, 2016


The US postal service doesn't let you mail beer, but shipping via private company it is o.k. Unless you live in a place where it isn't. Laws about Alcohol are very diverse across the US, sometimes nonsensical, and can be as granular as to change depending on what county or city you're in.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Gygesringtone: "The US postal service doesn't let you mail beer, but shipping via private company it is o.k. Unless you live in a place where it isn't. Laws about Alcohol are very diverse across the US, sometimes nonsensical, and can be as granular as to change depending on what county or city you're in."

I'm down to drink beer with Mefites in Denver.
posted by boo_radley at 10:03 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


All that said, I'd love to do a "what does your area do best" exchange.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:04 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hey, my first MeTa!

What little I understand of the legality of this comes from reading guidelines at other beer-trading fora, so take this with a HUGE grain of salt.

Under no circumstances can you exchange currency for beer, as you are then a seller of alcohol, and if you don't have a license for that, Very Bad Things will happen to you.

I have not found any stories, anecdotal or in real reporting, about anyone ever getting in trouble for this. That doesn't mean it's legal, of course, but it suggests that as long as you keep a low profile, no one cares enough to enforce it. This requires that you do borderline-shady things like pack dry rice and beans into your box of heavily-padded bottles, so that any incidental sloshing noise is covered by other noise. Reddit and Beer Advocate have been getting away with it for some time, though that might just be because they're small and reasonably low-profile. If Matt/Cortex wanted to put the kibosh on this for liability reasons, I would 100% understand.

However, if they do NOT want to put the kibosh on it, I work down the street from Trillium, and I just got back from Tree House. Just sayin'.
posted by Mayor West at 10:06 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


All that said, I'd love to do a "what does your area do best" exchange.

I'll ship cheap potato and chorizo breakfast tacos to whoever wants them.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


It is illegal to mail beer, liquor, perfume, paint, or anything in a pressurized container like a can. Depending on where it's going, your package may be in an unpressurized plane, in a 100F+ environment in the back of a truck, get dropped really hard on concrete, etc.

That said, it is unlikely that you will get caught unless you package your item poorly (Some people reportedly have luck putting items inside a wide-mouth "certified leakproof" container and then wrapping that in bubble wrap inside two Ziploc bags. So I have heard.)

I would also be concerned about age verification issues-- Mefites are pretty sensible in general (unless it's about eating something agèd and of unknown provenance) but it only takes one underage person getting one beer in the mail and getting caught once to screw this up. Send cookies instead.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It seems like there are a number of landmines on the path that leads to a package containing beer. This saddens me greatly, but is perhaps as it should be. Good Beer is everywhere, and it can be fun to look for it when traveling.

What about the other variant of the idea -- exchange of items done well in your area? This feels almost too nebulous, like some mystery grab bag Quonsmas. But there might be some way to make it work?
posted by cubby at 10:44 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'll ship cheap potato and chorizo breakfast tacos to whoever wants them.

Hi.

I'd be happy to send some Heady Topper or Hill Farmstead in exchange.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 10:47 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I might be willing to mail a standard business-sized envelope filled with baked beans to anyone who wants one.
posted by bondcliff at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sign me up, bondcliff. I know several people who would be delighted. Just pour some in there and I'll tell you their addresses.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


I once looked into sending my parents a selection of midwestern micro-brews as a gift. My parents live in Canada. The amount of bureaucracy required to ship alcohol into Canada is ridiculous, and I ended up just taking the beers with me in my luggage the next time I visited.

I presume that the amount of bureaucracy required to send beer into other countries (including the US) is similarly awful. So these exchanges would probably have to be confined to one country, which given the MeFi user base probably effectively means US-only.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I got a finger-aside-of-the-nose suggestion -- from employees of an actual beer company -- that UPS Ground asks no questions. And that there are these cylinders made of long air pockets which can accommodate a tall boy can (which I think were originally used to mail medicine? or something?) that might possibly go very well into a UPS Ground box.

That said, a recent thread in the Homebrewing subreddit where particpants in a beer contest mailed their entries to the judges resulted in a really neat sampling of data about the techniques for shipping bottles.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:16 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I want to do this so bad. I live in Utah though, so I would be worried about receiving. But I'd be happy to mail out locally brewed >4% barley pops.
posted by Marinara at 11:29 AM on February 22, 2016


My coworker, who swaps beer all the time, swears by UPS ground and answering "maple syrup" whenever she's asked what's in the box. Of course, that answer doesn't work if you're not in a place that produces a lot of syrup or if you're shipping to someplace that does.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just bring me 40's at my job and I'll be fine. Fortified wine will be accepted as well.
posted by jonmc at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2016


For some reason I thought this discussion was about homebrew. I do have a lager in the basement which should be quite nice when it's finished in a few weeks if there are other locals who want to do a homebrew exchange.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2016


Probably the most efficient, legal and safe way of transporting beer around the country is to pour the beer into a quidnunc kid-sized quidnunc kid, and then buy him a first-class airfare to your destination. When he arrives, he'll also need a little spending money, but your beer will mostly be in him. Some may have been turned into yellow ice and ejected over America from 30,000 feet up, but I say: spread the love. Anyway, I can transport cookies too - similar method, but there's a small milk surcharge. Thanks.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2016 [33 favorites]


Fortified wine will be accepted as well.

"If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack."
posted by octobersurprise at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2016


(Back in 2010, we did a homebrew swap.)
posted by box at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


..I may have once mailed QC beers to a friend in New Mexico who promptly mailed me a bunch back. It was a fun exchange but at least one of us each got a broken bottle despite the careful wrapping.
posted by Kitteh at 1:51 PM on February 22, 2016


As I recall, people did some work on best practices at the time--bottles in padded gallon Ziplocks in a padded box, sent through either UPS or FedEx, mark it fragile, if they ask tell them it's salad dressing.
posted by box at 5:39 PM on February 22, 2016


Man, things like this are one of the things that makes living outside the states rough for a Mefite. I'd love to participate, because wow, we've got good beer in Japan, but if you think shipping beer domestically is pricey and legally fraught, oceans and borders tend to inflate that.

On the other hand, if any Mefite is coming to Japan for a visit, I'm happy to point out some of the can't miss beers in Japan, as well as some great bars and breweries. And if we manage to make a meetup, I wouldn't say no to any illicitly important samples of local greatness from back in the states.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:41 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'll ship cheap potato and chorizo breakfast tacos to whoever wants them.

Dear AskMe,

I received a cheap potato and chorizo breakfast taco in the mail....
posted by mudpuppie at 6:01 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


...My mail is delivered around 10 a.m. and I didn't get home until about 6 p.m. It was a nice day, by local standards, with the high temperature reaching around 65 degrees Fahrenheit....
posted by mudpuppie at 6:02 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Id be up for this is we can figure out the logistics. Also up for a homebrew swap, local (Boston) or otherwise
posted by jpdoane at 7:32 PM on February 22, 2016


Lots of people ship lots of beer all around the US (to and from every state, and internationally), essentially illicitly. My recommendations are:

* Use a styrofoam wine shipper, 6 or 12 bottle capacity, with each bottle in a padded shipping envelope (you can get these for free from your carrier) in its slot. Black out or cover with a blank label any pre-printed "must be 21 to receive" stuff on the box. Domestically, it's not worth the savings to pack your bottles tighter given the hassle, packing materials, and how poorly first-time beer shippers tend to pack.
* Ship UPS or FedEx, prepay and print your labels at home and simply drop the package off without speaking to the clerk. If you want you can register your account with a hot sauce or olive oil-type name and put stickers to that effect on the box, but I don't think it makes much difference.
* Sometimes your package will get found out and sent back to you anyways (you also get a nasty letter from FedEx. You can frame it and put it in your basement bar!). Just re-ship it (only switch services if the package was turned around once it was on the truck for delivery).
*Pay attention to weather and holidays (i.e. don't ship if it's going to sit in a delivery truck at 100° all day; don't ship if it's going to be in the teens anywhere along the path the box will take to its destination; don't ship in the 2-3 weeks before Christmas as many more boxes are lost and roughly handled).

If you want to do it legitimately, you may be able to find a liquor store (usually a fancier wine shop) that will accept your package for shipment and use their license to mail it as alcohol (21+ delivery, etc). This only works to and from certain states, but which ones are dependent on the shipping service and the store.
posted by j.edwards at 7:59 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've heard Utah and Colorado represent - if we get someone from Arizona, we could have a Four Corners meetup and beer swap! (Helluva drive, but it would be fun.)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


People have sent alcohol as part of sq before, and I'd estimate there were issues 40% of the time (primarily breakage and issues around age). People almost always lied if they were asked to reveal what was in the box.

I've mailed jars of food before by cutting strips of cardboard, and wrapping them around a bubble-wrapped food jar, and then bubble-wrapping the whole cardboard/bubbled/jar, and then using coiled paper and cardboard to stablilize them in the box, and then double-boxing the box. It seems to have worked for normal wear and tear.
posted by julen at 9:15 PM on February 22, 2016


A good friend of mine is a clerk at a HUGE bottle shop(that ships!). I'm going to pick his brain about this asap and post again in this thread, but

* Use a styrofoam wine shipper, 6 or 12 bottle capacity

Is the set-it-and-forget-it that i've heard. Macyvered solutions tend to be recreating problems that have already been solved with this sort of thing. If your bottles are thinner than the slots, shim them up with bubblewrap/etc so they fit snuggly... but use the damn styro pack thing that's for booze bottles.

It's a lot like shipping a bike. Just get the damn bike shipping box, don't try and rig up something.

I know that store mails and sometimes receives single bottles though, and i'm super duper interested to know what the official method for doing that is on their part. I wonder if they sell some little bottle box with premade shims? I'm like itching to find out now.
posted by emptythought at 11:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've heard Utah and Colorado represent - if we get someone from Arizona, we could have a Four Corners meetup and beer swap! (Helluva drive, but it would be fun.)

This is a thing that is now required to happen.
posted by hippybear at 11:48 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Laws about Alcohol are very diverse across the US, sometimes nonsensical

hey, a cryptic reason derived from back-room dealing by the courthouse gang 75 years ago is still a kind of reason
posted by thelonius at 2:28 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Somehow I feel like it'd be a threat if I offered someone a Narragansett.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:06 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Looks like you can import wine and spirits into PA but not beer (pdf);
However, section 9.41 of the Board’s Regulations provides a limited exception, whereby persons other than the above may import liquor into the Commonwealth if the liquor is a gift from someone who resides outside of Pennsylvania. [40 Pa. Code § 9.41]. In order to lawfully import liquor, including wines, into Pennsylvania as a gift, an application for importation and an application for the payment of tax on the liquor must be filed with the Board’s Bureau of Product Selection. In addition, a service charge must be paid to the Board and any state taxes must be paid. Once the applicant has filed the necessary documents and paid the charges and fees, he/she would receive a consent certificate from the Board approving the importation of the liquor.

Please note that the exception for gift liquor described above applies to liquor, which includes wine, only. No such exception is in place for malt or brewed beverages and the gift importation of beer is impermissible.
Living in PA is sometimes like being in the movie Brazil but without the cool production design.
posted by octothorpe at 7:26 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Welp, Benton's Bacon is already having trouble meeting demand, and adding the many thousands of non-vegetarian MeFites to their customer load probably won't help, but I'm game to try if you are.
posted by workerant at 7:42 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


I believe it's illegal to ship alcohol across state lines (IANAL) in most cases, but I know that shippers are only look for you to say that it's hot sauce, vinegar, or something non-alcoholic that goes glug and as long as they don't see it or know it isn't, they'll ship it.
posted by kalessin at 7:53 AM on February 23, 2016


the quidnunc kid: "Probably the most efficient, legal and safe way of transporting beer around the country is to pour the beer into a quidnunc kid-sized quidnunc kid, "

Vote #1 quidnunc mule.
posted by chavenet at 8:45 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


If anyone is looking for CA beer in Chicago I'm happy to swap bombers of some amazing stuff for pipeworks/spiteful.
posted by Carillon at 9:26 AM on February 23, 2016


It is correct that the USPS won't ship beer.
It is also correct that the USPS will ship malt flavored marinades.

That said, I have routinely shipped bottles of homebrew via my local pack and ship store and they have arrived with a 100% success rate.

And yes, I'm willing and able to participate (at least from the homebrew aspect).
posted by plinth at 11:26 AM on February 23, 2016


And yes, I'm willing and able to participate (at least from the homebrew aspect).
posted by plinth at 2:26 PM on February 23 [+] [!]


*squints real hard at username, trying to discern if there's a backhand plinytheelder reference hidden in there*
posted by Mayor West at 12:20 PM on February 23, 2016


but there's a small milk surcharge.

Incidentally, Small Milk Surcharge is the name of my new band.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:09 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Living in PA is sometimes like being in the movie Brazil but without the cool production design.

From what I remember from living in Philly, it was pretty straightforward; you can only buy beer in a deli, but the deli has to have a restaurant attached, and it must be Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday, unless it is Monday. The beer MUST be consumed on premises, unless within 500 feet of a deli, in which case, beer may not be consumed. It is legal to name the beer, but ONLY if it is named Charles.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Indiana has lots of crazy blue laws. We still can't buy alcohol on Sundays except in restaurants*. I'm about 92% certain I'd be thrown in a jail if I tried to ship beer.

* - I've heard there are a few "restaurants" that will be happy to heat up a hot pocket for you for $150. It's the only thing on the menu. They also have a fine selection of beer, wine and spirits every day of the week. I'm not sure if someone was pulling my leg, but I heartily approve if it's true.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:49 PM on February 23, 2016


Somehow I feel like it'd be a threat if I offered someone a Narragansett.

Eh, the cream ale's pretty good. That Del's lemonade one scares me though. Oh god, there's a cherry one too?! Ugh.
posted by maryr at 3:01 PM on February 23, 2016


(At any rate, Nanuk, some coffee syrup might be a novelty to people from... not New England.)
posted by maryr at 3:03 PM on February 23, 2016


It is correct that the USPS won't ship beer.

...They will if you don't tell them it's in there.

Not that I've committed mail fraud or anything. I am an upstanding citizen and never ship perishables, liquids, or whatever else they ask me at the post office.
posted by maryr at 3:04 PM on February 23, 2016


PA now lets me buy a twelve pack instead of forcing me to buy an entire 24 bottle case at a time. So that's some progress.
posted by octothorpe at 3:06 PM on February 23, 2016


Indiana has lots of crazy blue laws. We still can't buy alcohol on Sundays except in restaurants

Boy, even here, deep in the Bible Belt, we've had Sunday retail beer & wine sales for a decade or so. (Tho no retail liquor sales yet.)
posted by octobersurprise at 3:10 PM on February 23, 2016


It almost makes think of SC as progressive.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:11 PM on February 23, 2016


SC had blue laws prohibiting ordinary shopping. Nothing but church for you.
posted by thelonius at 6:15 AM on February 24, 2016


And in news today, the long lived website "Metafilter" was taken down today by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms after it was discovered to be the seeding ground for the illegal transport of regulated substances across state lines.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:37 AM on February 24, 2016


Oh sure. When I was a kid the only thing to do on a Sunday in South Carolina was to go to church or stay at home and make sweet love to an animal. You could go to a grocery store or a movie, but only after church was out. It wasn't until the early '80s that you could even go to a mall on Sunday. I remember how excited I was! Back in those days, rich men rode around in Zeppelins, dropping coins on people and one day I saw J. D. Rockefeller flying by!
posted by octobersurprise at 6:46 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


My coworker, who swaps beer all the time, swears by UPS ground and answering "maple syrup" whenever she's asked what's in the box.

Brewers who ship for competitions often label theirs as "yeast samples."
posted by terrapin at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2016


Back in those days, rich men rode around in Zeppelins, dropping coins on people and one day I saw J. D. Rockefeller flying by!

...wearing the requisite onion, I'm sure.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:35 AM on February 24, 2016


Back in those days, rich men rode around in Zeppelins, dropping coins on people and one day I saw J. D. Rockefeller flying by!

He dropped a nickel and it totally killed a dude. Fed his family for a week though. A nickel bought a lot of goldfish crackers back then, since they were still made with real goldfish at the time. Well, they were made with silverfish mostly, but they added food coloring to make up the difference.
posted by maryr at 1:49 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am attorney licensed in New York. This is not my general area of practice, but if there is interest I would be willing to put together an information sheet on the laws regarding shipping alcohol within and to the US. This would be for informational purposes only, of course, and for any specific question about shipping alcohol you should consult an attorney, but it would be fun to do some research in this area.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


On Sundays in Arkansas, you have to go to a microbrewery that brews on-site and have them fill a growler. Have to.
posted by box at 6:08 PM on February 24, 2016


This thread reminds me of the time a Polish friend shipped me some vodka with the customs label reading "potato water".
posted by mdonley at 2:18 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


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