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Thread: Bringing Beer Through US Customs In The United States [Bringing Augustiner To America

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  1. #1

    Default Bringing Beer Through US Customs In The United States [Bringing Augustiner To America

    So as most everyone knows who follows my work, I really like German/Bavarian beers more so than the American beer that is most commonly scheiße (aside from select micro-brews, but those are hard to find throughout the US, obviously). Particularly, Augustiner, Franziskaner, Tegernsee Hell, etc. Augustiner is next to impossible to find outside of Bavaria without a huge mark-up and in the US is just horrific to find and very expensive, even in Chicago. Franziskaner is about the favorite beer I can find in the US with only a moderate challenge, but there's still a premium compared to in Germany and the bottles in the US also are not 0,5L usually. So whenever I return from Germany I always bring back beer.

    Usually I just take a larger suitcase and just toss in 10~12 bottles, or more, but this time I decided to bring a full crate back too... I am sure some of the German readers will find this comical, so here are some photos. And this to serve as a guide to any other crazy Americans wishing to bring back the best beers in the world to the US.

    And then to add in some foam between the bottles... What the internal layout looks like:

    All of this foam came from packaging off graphics cards and motherboards...

    The top was two layers of thicker foam, I believe from a Tyan EATX board, but it fit perfectly.

    There was one layer of foam on the bottom put inside a bag to reduce the absorption of water. Then duct tape was run all around the top and bottom to secure the foam and so that bottles also wouldn't fall out. One FedEx delivery box was also cut up to reinforce the support for the foam.

    The handle / black supports is actually a CaseGear ATX computer case strap that people use for transporting computers to LANs, etc. This really reinforces the foam and cardboard so no beer falls out. It also makes it possible to carry this entire crate of 20 x 0,5L Augustiner Hell bottles with one hand.

    It's a bit tiresome though carrying an entire crate of Augustiner with one hand plus suitcase, backpack, etc.

    First leg of the flight was on a B767-400. It made it safely without any broken bottles or frozen beer.

    And back to Chicago all safe...

    So it was quite easy bringing back an entire crate of Augustiner into the United States. The 20 bottles only cost 15 EUR with pfand/tax included at Rewe in Munich. I'm also posting this thread because the rules for US Customs for importing beer are not clear... Technically their rules state you can only bring as much beer/liquor/wine as you can consume for personal use, but anything over 1L must be assessed a duty and tax fee, including by the IRS. But I've never actually been assessed that when bringing lots of beer.

    Even on the trip this week with the entire crate, I declared all of the beer and was obviously clearing customs while carrying this entire crate in plain sight, but the CBP officers didn't seem to glance twice at this massive taped-up crate and made it through just fine. The only extra looks I received from anyone were Bavarians smiling when seeing Augustiner in the airport.

    On trips where I bring back beer in my suitcase and don't bother declaring it, but then end up getting searched in secondary-screening by US Customs and they see the beer, they don't even seem to care. It usually ends in conversations about Oktoberfest, etc and not about the beer being undeclared or any duty/tax. So it's nice for bringing beer into the United States, but doesn't put much faith in the abilities of US Customs & Border Patrol.

    Though now that I have an Augustiner crate in America, where I can use it for dimensioning. next time I'll be designing a proper carrier out of wood/composite materials rather than relying upon duct tape and cardboard.

    And now there's Augustiner in America to celebrate the release of PTS3-Iveland and in just a few days and might also bring some Augustiner to SCALE in LA. Anyhow, if any fellow beer connoisseurs have any questions about bringing beer into the United States, just post away...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2009


    Michael why don't you rename the thread in something like "The Great Beer Thread" or something and have a general discussion about beers in one thread? Styles, Local (by country) beers worth trying etc.

    Also you have a brewpub in your area, called Piece, that brews your favorite style (it's Weiss i think). This beer gets quite a high score on (which might not mean anything but anyway) and maybe you should give it a try -if you haven't- instead of trying to "smuggle" Augustiner in the US. (j/k).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default Augustiner

    I always bring a couple of cases of Augustiner back with me> in the good old daya (before airlines were strict about weight limits), I usually carried four cases, but now it's just two, and I use a scale to make sure I don't go over.

    My technique is similar, but I use socks and shirts between the bottles (I have them anyway), close off the vulnerable windows (heh) by wrapping with tape, and protect the top and (especially) the bottom with styrofoam insulation which you can buy at any home improvement store. (Augustiner bottles are pretty strong, but the bottoms are the weak spot.)

    I generally buy a used duffel bag near the Hauptbahnhof (about 5 Euros) to carry the case - it weighs very little and makes carrying easier; I bring some empty cases back to Munich (as well as some North American delicacies), but people like them as conversation pieces...

    I've brought back several dozen cases like this without incident. The only time I've ever had to pay a duty or tax was when I loaded a Volvo wagon with 22 cases, drove up to Hamburg, and shipped them to Montreal; I think I had to pay a buck or two a case at the US border.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    Default I should add...

    For special occasions, I've also brought kegs of Augustiner back. They are very easy to pack - just drop one into a duffel bag - and of course unbreakable.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009



    best article of the year Michael

    And I was already complaining having to walk 600m with my crates from the supermarket to home..

    Tip: next time buy 2 crates, it's better for your back since it keeps you more in balance


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default I agree with your taste in beer!

    I too prefer the German beers to anything here in the US, so far I really like Spaten Optimator. I did recently discover a beer from Italy that is very similar to Spaten Optimator and I like it as much, it is La Rossa by Birra Moretti.

    What we really need is an open source pipeline for European beers so that US customs would be out of the loop, anyone have any ideas how to get one of these built?

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