How to Build a Beer Travel Case

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Part of the fun of beer tourism is bringing home a bunch of trophies you can’t find at home. This is especially true when you’re traveling overseas. Unfortunately, this complicates the process because of limited space and complex airline regulations regarding weight and size allowances. The solution? Build a beer suitcase. To be fair, this isn’t my idea. It was provided by a friend who has a friend that makes them. He gave me the rough idea which I translated into action and this post.

Here is your supply list:

1. A hard sided suitcase with approximate measurements of 12″x18″x28″ which is a total of 58″ dimensional inches. Most airlines have a maximum size allowance of 62 inches. You can try looking at thrift stores, but I bought mine at a discount store (Ross or TJ Max).
2. Grey packing foam. I brought a 108″x48″x1″ sheet at a packing/shipping store. For a few extra dollars they cut it into 12 18″x24″ sheets.
3. A good utility knife with an extra blade or two.
4. Contact cement (get a few small bottles or a larger one, more is better).
5. A sharpie.
6. Velcro
7. Cardboard
8. A tape measure or a ruler

Construction

1. Figure out the size of the largest bottles you’ll be bringing home. I was going to be bringing home a mixture of 375ml and 750ml cork and cage finished bottles. I took the dimensions of these two bottle sizes and made a rectangular cardboard cutout of each one. I figured any other sized bottle would fit in these spaces.

2. Take the card board cutouts and figure out the best configuration. For me, and I imagine this will be true for you, I had 10 375ml slots on one side and 2 375ml and 6 750ml bottle slots on the other side. This should be the same for 12oz and 22oz bottles. This configuration allows you to bring home a full case of beer. The other great thing about this setup is that the total weight (beer, foam, and suitcase) is just under 50 lbs.  For most airlines, this is the maximum weight before the airline starts charging you extra.

3. Use the sharpie and cardboard cutouts to trace your slots onto one of your foam rectangles.

4. Use one of the foam rectangles as a cutting pad (you won’t need it later). Cut along your sharpie lines in clean, slow motions. Always practice safe knife techniques. It’s much harder to take a cork out of a beer if you’re missing a few digits.

This one will hold 6 larger bottles and 2 smaller bottles once you glue 2 more identical pieces on top of it for a 3″ depth.

5. Once you have all the bottles slots cut out, place the cut piece on top of a new piece. Trace the rectangles onto the new place through your cut holes. You can go ahead and trace it onto one more piece.

6. Cut out all the slots on the other 2 pieces. You should now have 3 identical pieces.

7. Repeat steps 3-6 with 3 more uncut pieces using your other configuration.

8. Take 2 uncut pieces and place one with each set of 3 cut pieces. These will form the base for each stack. Take one of the cut pieces and trace the outlines of your bottle slots onto the base so you have guidelines for putting down contact cement on the base.

9. Apply contact cement to the base and the cut piece that will go on top of it. Don’t be stingy with the cement. You want a nice, solid connection. Let sit for 15 minutes but not more than an hour. Press the two glued sides together. Repeat the gluing process with two more cut pieces. You should have a base with 3 identical cutouts glued onto it.

10. Repeat step 9 with the other uncut base and other 3 cut pieces.

11. You should have 3 remaining uncut pieces (excluding the one you used as a cutting pad). Two of these will function as your lids, one for each stack (the last won’t be used). Take your Velcro and attach some to your lids and onto the stacks. (I bought Velcro that was more powerful than the stickum on the back of the Velcro strips. I’ll need to do some minor repair work next time).

This finished foam storage box will hold 10 smaller bottles.

12. Place your foam boxes inside your suitcase, one for each side. I suggest you try to buy a suitcase that has straps for each side. It’ll be nice added security feature. I also took large ziplock bags to put my bottles in as an added layer of protection in case there was a highly unlikely breakage.  You can use some of the foam rectangles you cut out to pad any gaps you have between the suitcase wall and the foam box.

This is the foam box that will hold 6 larger bottles and 2 smaller bottles nestled in one half of the suitcase.

Congratulations, you now have an easily transportable beer suitcase that will protect your beer throughout your travels.

This side of the suitcase contains the 10 small bottle foam storage box.

30 thoughts on “How to Build a Beer Travel Case

    1. It worked like a charm. I think my next adventure with it will be to the San Diego area for a wedding in the spring. I’ll hit up a lot of the breweries we don’t get up here in the Northwest.

  1. I do this often, but never with such high-class and care for the beer. I usually wrap my clothing around the beer to protect it on the way home, and have come home with as many as 15 different beers from the microbreweries in Northern California. I definitely have lots of Russian River on the way home! Usually high % of Pliny the Elder in my suitcase to share with my friends in Memphis.

    1. Nice! We get an ok supply of Pliny here in Portland. I buy a bottle once or twice a year. I’m glad you’ve figured out a good system for beer smuggling! It’s always fun to take home some goodies.

  2. This is great- I typically wrap beer bottles in all of my clothes. Once in the summer I had 2 suitcases full of winter clothes wrapped around my beer. No mishaps yet- but I LOVE your suitcase idea!

    1. The clothes wrap is the classic method. It does suffer from bottle compression. It’s not so much the danger from things hitting the suitcase, but from the jostling causing the bottles to smack together that breaks things.

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