Flying With Beer 101: Can You Bring Beer On A Plane?

Last Updated on April 15, 2020

Sometimes when you are traveling you meet a beer so special you want to bring some home.

Bringing beer home isn’t complicated but there are a few rules you need to be aware of.

This post will have you up in the air and flying with beer in no time at all!

TSA Beer Rules

Beer, as I’m sure you know, is a liquid. So in terms of hand luggage, it needs to follow the liquids rule. Here is the relevant TSA rule about taking beer on planes:

Taking Beer In Carry-On Luggage

You can bring beer in carry-on luggage, but only in really small 3.4 oz mini bottles. In terms of beer 3.4 is about a quarter of a standard 12 oz can.

You can’t easily buy beer in such small bottles. So you can’t really take any significant quantity of beer in carry-on luggage.

While you can technically bring a tiny beer in your plastic quart bag in your carry on it’s not really worth the trouble.

If there is a shop where you can buy beer after airport security you can take that beer on a plane in a plastic carrier bag. But only if you have purchased it after the security checkpoint.

Only JetBlue will actually let you drink your own beer on a plane. If you ask they will be happy to pour it for you.

Taking Beer In Checked Baggage

The only realistic way to bring beer on a plane is by packing it in your checked luggage.

Even exceptionally strong beer is under 24% ABV. This means that you are not restricted to the 5-liter rule in place for stronger alcoholic drinks. As far as the TSA is concerned you can pack as much beer in your checked luggage as you like!

You do need to consider the weight of your bag. Most airlines have weight limits of around 50 lbs. If you pack too much beer in your bag you could easily go over the weight limit and incur an additional fee.

These fees for overweight luggage are pretty high so your beer could end up costing a lot if you get an overweight penalty. Check your luggage with a luggage scale before heading to the airport.

Import Rules When Taking Beer On Planes

If you are flying internationally you need to check the import rules for the country you are landing it.

While you can pack as many beer cans in checked luggage as you can manage you will need to pay duty on that beer if you bring it in the US from another country.

In the US the first liter or alcohol is duty-free. But beyond that, you’ll need to pay import duty.

You need to be over 21 to import alcohol and you need to declare what you are bringing into the country when you land.

The same types of rules apply to other countries.

You need to check the import rules for the country you are visiting and pay the tax on the beer you are bringing.

Often it’s not a lot of money, It’s more just a pain in the ass that you need to do it. You’ll need to really love the beer you are flying with to go through the extra hassle.

Will Beer Cans Explode In Checked Luggage?

No. The cargo hold is pressurized just like the cabin. Your beer cans won’t explode because of air pressure.

However, luggage handlers are not renowned for being the most gentle people. Your beer cans or bottles could be damaged due to handling issues. For example, your suitcase being thrown around.

For this reason, you still need to pack beer carefully in your checked luggage when flying.

How To Pack Beer In Checked Luggage

The most efficient way is to use your clothes as padding. Alternatively, you could wrap your beer in bubble wrap before you pack for your flight.

You should try to keep your bottles or cans in the center of your suitcase. It’s also a good idea to make sure the bottles are not touching each other. Especially if they are glass.

Something like this might be helpful if packing a few bottles of beer:

It’s all about common sense…

If a luggage handler throws a suitcase, beer cans or bottles packed on the outside might take the impact and burst open.

You might want to also pack your beer inside a plastic bag or even a dry bag. This will reduce the chances of your clothes getting wet in the event of a breakage.

Make sure your checked bags are packed so nothing is rattling around inside. Your case should be not overstuffed but also not half full so that the contents roll around inside.

This video gives a great overview of packing beer in luggage:

The Verdict

If you want to fly with beer you need to pack it inside your checked luggage. If you are flying across borders you will probably need to declare your beer when you land and you might need to pay some tax.

Given that checked luggage usually costs more than flying carry-on only. You need a pretty solid reason for flying with beer.

It might be better to consider other ways to get the beer where you want it to go. I would also check online beer retailers and see if they can deliver the beer I want before trying to fly with beer.

Also, consider checked to see if your beer can be transported by courier instead of taking it with you on the plane.

But then I do love to pack light and fly carry on only.