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How To Ship Beer By The Truckload

Resources > How To Ship Beer By The Truckload
An important part of running your brewery is getting your beer to thirsty consumers. Learn how to ship beer by the truckload.
Published: January 3, 2020
Last Modified: August 28, 2023
Author: Ask Truckload

Whether you make enough beer in one week to quench the thirst of thousands or are brewing batches on a smaller scale, knowing how to ship your beer by the truckload is an important aspect of getting it in the hands of the people who want it.

There are many aspects of shipping beer by the truckload to consider, like the suds traveling from state to state or how your beer needs to be packed onto the truck and stored during shipping. So keep on reading for the best tips on how to spread cheer to the masses.

Shipping Beer Across State Lines

Shipping Beer Across State Lines

If you want to talk about big business, talking about beer is a good place to start. In 2018 alone, $35 billion dollars of beer was sold in just the United States. If you were to include other malt-based beverages into that figure, it would rise to $119 billion. Clearly, Americans have a thirst for alcohol.

In the United States, shipping beer is a pretty straight line down the supply chain. The brewer sells its beer to a distributor, who then sells the libation to stores. But what if you don’t have the volume or profit margin to subscribe to this business model?

You can choose to distribute the beer yourself or hire your own shipping service to get the beer directly to consumers and cut out the perceived middle-men. Besides potentially higher profits, this setup will give a beer maker more control over their own product.

But it’s also imperative to know that self-distribution is currently allowed in only 36 of the 50 states. The states where it is not allowed are:

  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont

It’s important to know the laws of each individual state and even counties within the state. Alcohol is legal in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, but counties within the state can choose to be dry counties and the states themselves may have more liberal or restrictive laws. 

For example, North and South Dakota have some of the most easy-going attitudes toward alcohol while Utah is very restrictive in its allowance of alcohol. Utah also mandates that alcohol must be served alongside food at restaurants and also that happy hour or discounted drinks are prohibited.

These examples are used to let a potential brewer know if the market they want to ship to will allow certain products or not, and where those drinks are permitted to be sold. For instance, a beer sold in a Utah grocery store can’t have an Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of higher than 4 percent. That is tough for brewers, even the biggest ones in the nation.

Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite and Michelob Ultra — four of the most popular beers in the entire country — all natively boast ABVs of 4.2 percent. So those beers in Utah would have to be sold at a liquor store, or be specially brewed by the manufacturer to conform to the 4 percent or lower mark to be sold in grocery stores.

In short, there should be no issues transporting beer between states. But being cognizant of local alcohol restrictions is paramount to ensuring the longest reach for your beer and so you don’t run afoul of the law.

A competent freight shipping company would have no problem shipping beer from Washington state to Tennessee, California to New York or any legal points in between. Furthermore, that same company should have employees that can help you navigate the landscape of the different rules. 

Beer isn't the only beverage you'll find being shipped on the road. Learn more about domestic whiskey transportation.

How to Ship Bottles and Cans of Beer

How to Ship Bottles and Cans of Beer

Here is the first thing to mind when deciding to ship your bottled or canned beer across the country — bottles and cans are extremely breakable and/or bustable. Making sure these are packed the right way to prevent loss is essential to not only prevent a huge mess but to avoid money flowing out of the bottles.

Bottles should be boxed for sure, and care should be taken to make sure the bottles can’t move very much during shipping. The necks of the bottles should be afforded the most level of protection since it is the most fragile part.

For large orders that would typically need a truckload, stacking the beer on pallets is a good way to go. First, because pallets can comfortably hold about 2,200 pounds of freight, which also leads to the freight then being easier to move onto and off of the truck.

Shrink wrapping the cases of beer onto the pallet will keep them from being jostled during transportation and also keep them protected during loading and unloading. You can also use straps to secure the pallets to the side of the truck to further prevent the likelihood of shifting alcohol in the back of the trailer.

Another crucial aspect to take into account when shipping beer if you do use pallets is to factor in the weight of the wood or plastic skids — which are generally 20 to 25 pounds each — into the weight of the freight. On a 53-foot trailer, 26 pallets can fit, so you’re talking up to an additional 650 pounds that have to be accounted for.

Another factor to consider when shipping any beer is keeping it away from four things that can drastically alter the quality of the product: air, light, heat and time.

Time: Most beer brewed usually has an expiration date of a couple of months from the time it was made but can actually last anywhere from 6 to 9 months at room temperature past that date. If it is kept refrigerated, it can last as long as two years.

So time might not be the biggest factor in light of those facts, but the closer patrons drink their beer to the date it was brewed, the better and more flavorful it will taste. So basically, it would take a ton of time for beer to actually spoil but it still serves the brewer well to get it in front of customers as soon as it is ready.

Most beer manufacturers have “born on” dating on the bottle’s label or on the bottom of the can. This date is generally a suggestion on when beer will still taste its freshest by — in many cases within 100 days of it being brewed — but the liquid is still extremely drinkable after that date as long as the proper precautions are taken.

Air: There is no way to completely eliminate oxygen inside a beer can or bottle but it can be greatly limited, which is imperative. Too much oxygen present will create a chemical that will cause the beer to spoil faster and give the beer a smell similar to wet paper products.

Keeping the beer cold will actually reduce the small amount of oxygen’s ability to accelerate the liquid’s freshness degradation. So, in short, keeping oxygen out of the beer is paramount to it tasting its best by the time it hits shelves.

Heat: After talking about the beer being best kept cold, let’s discuss one of the elements you absolutely want to keep the alcoholic beverage away from. Excessive heat will destroy the quality of the beer.

To illustrate the effect consistent warm temperatures have on beer, let’s look at a baseline beer freshness of 70 percent, which is a point where the beer hasn’t lost enough freshness to alter its taste.

If the beer is stored at 40 degrees consistently, it can easily spend four months before it would need to be pulled from the shelves.

The beer being stored around room temperature (roughly 70 degrees) will hit 70 percent freshness two to three weeks earlier than 40 degrees at about 105 days.

If the beer was kept consistently at 85 degrees, it would be at 70 percent freshness in two months’ time. The warmer the beer is stored, the sooner it will be unsuitable for sale.

Even fluctuating the beer from 40 degrees to 85 degrees for just a five-day period would make the liquid lose 10 percent of its freshness.

Anything above 85 degrees will make the beer deteriorate at a very rapid pace and it might not be fresh enough to drink in mere weeks.

So, in closing, the cooler the beer is maintained at, the longer it will be fresh and drinkable.

Light: This one is probably the most easy to see in terms of how brewers package their product. Dark glass bottles (usually brown or green), aluminum cans and metal kegs are all designed to minimize or completely block out light from hitting the hops, which are a major ingredient in beer and are generally very light-sensitive.

Basically a beer that has been exposed to ultraviolet light for as little as 40 minutes can cause the beer to become skunky, which would make it basically undrinkable. This phenomenon is important enough to beer drinkers that studies have been done on the chemical reaction.

And, really, that’s all there is to it. Keep your beer away from direct light and it will taste — and smell — the way it’s expected to.

Taking those four elements into account will keep your beer the most fresh and ward off the dreaded skunkiness that both brewers and consumers alike don’t want to have to deal with.

Hops are an essential ingredient in beer. Learn more about shipping bulk hops from Washington.

How To Ship Beer Cold

How To Ship Beer Cold

If you’re interested in the complexities of how beer is brewed, it’s truly a meticulous and detailed undertaking.

But once the hard work is done, getting your beer brewed, bottled, canned or kegged is the next step in the process. If you want to have your beer’s great and refreshing taste last its longest, consider using refrigeration shipping options.

The optimal temperature range for beer to be shipped at is between 37 and 46 degrees fahrenheit. That will keep it at its freshest without either freezing it and causing the bottles or cans to explode or making the beer bitter by allowing it to get too cold.

Since the average beer is mostly water, it freezes at a higher temperature than something such as straight vodka and is more prone to temperatures at or below 32 degrees fahrenheit.

But that might be a slight oversimplification, as different types of beer are best served at different temperatures. Some beers are served at nearly 60 degrees while others can be served as low as about 33 degrees.

Here are some guidelines. Each individual beer is different so these are ranges, but the brewer itself would know best about the perfect serving temperature.

  • Wheat beer — 40 to 45 degrees
  • Sour beer — 45 to 55 degrees
  • Lagers/Pilsners — 38 to 45 degrees
  • Light lagers — 33 to 40 degrees
  • Porter/Stout — 45 to 55 degrees
  • IPA — 38 to 55 degrees. The range of these beers is so wide because it is based on the various flavors and styles.
  • Blonde Ale — 40 to 45 degrees
  • Pale Ale — 45 to 55 degrees
  • Amber Lager — 45 to 50 degrees

So while beer doesn’t need to be shipped to its destination in ice cold conditions, it will hold longer at colder temperatures as a general rule. However, there are some beers that will actually taste more bitter if chilled to too cold of a point, so — again — it is up to the brewer to relay the best setting for the refrigerated truck to the freight shipper.   

How To Ship Kegs of Beer

How To Ship Kegs of Beer

Contrary to popular belief, there is no standard size for a keg of beer. They range from a mini keg of 1.32 gallons of beer all the way up to a full keg of 15.5 gallons, with several other variations in between.

Kegs in general, even the smallest ones, are not light. Therefore, just like with bottles and cans, they should probably be palletized. A full keg weighs about 160 pounds and has about 165 servings of beer at 12 ounces each, so putting it on a pallet and using a forklift to load and unload the barrels of beer would be the smartest way to transport it. Being so heavy, full kegs have a wide base and shouldn’t move too much but to be safe, using shrink wrap to secure them together on the pallet is a good practice.

Pallets are generally a standard size but since kegs aren’t, they might fit awkwardly. You might not be able to stack the legs in neat little rows and will have to improvise, like stacking them on the pallet in a 3-2-3 formation for half-kegs that won’t line up perfectly.

Once the keg is bought for consumption, there are two different kinds of systems used to dispense the beer: party pumps or gas taps.

With a party pump, outside air is used to get the beer to flow out. These are usually used for beer that will be gulped down within a 24-hour period since introducing air and bacteria will cause the beer to turn bad rather quickly.

A gas pump tends to use carbon dioxide, or a mix of that gas and nitrogen. If a keg with a gas pump is properly refrigerated, it can be stored for up to four months. Kegs using a gas pump need to have a pressure release valve to avoid serious injury.

The keg is made out of stainless steel in most cases, especially the larger ones, so they are pretty durable. Furthermore, a keg itself wouldn’t explode under normal pressure from beer but if hit with enough force, the metal barrel could develop a crack and begin leaking. So some care should still be exhibited no matter how impervious to damage you perceive the keg to be. 

Are you shipping alcohol in bulk quantities? Learn more about what it takes to get your libations rolling.

Shipping Beer By The Truckload With R+L Global Logistics

Once you’ve brewed that golden, brown or dark beer, consider letting R+L Global Logistics get your painstakingly crafted libations from your business to the consumers.

We offer refrigerated shipping to keep your beverages almost chilled per your specifications and boast a 99.5 percent on-time rate to make sure it gets there in a timely manner. Furthering our commitment to your beer being as fresh as possible, we also offer expedited shipping for those times that you need it there as soon as possible.

R+L Global Logistics offers services including:

Our customer service team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions that may come up and we also offer real-time freight visibility so you can track the progress of the delivery to its final destination.

So when you’re ready to ship your beer by the truckload, let R+L Global Logistics set your special brew on the right path. Call 866-353-7178 to get a free truckload shipping quote and learn about the difference in shipping with an experienced and trusted carrier.

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