Do you ever get frustrated with the myriad of restrictions on the shipment of alcoholic beverages? Why is it, that what you want never seems to be available? Beer, wine, and spirits lovers all have the same complaints.
So what do we do about it? We travel, "mule-ing" for beers. It is the only way we can try a glass of a famed fresh IPA, the best barrel- aged imperial stout, or that very special adjunct vanilla-maple syrup-cocoa nib infused-ancho chili pepper, and coffee imperial aged stout. There are so many styles and possibilities in the rapidly growing craft beer industry that it has led to the rise of craft beer tourism.
Craft beer tourism or “Beercations” are about discovery, passion, and community. Beercationers love to meet and share their experiences and their passion for the art that is craft beer making. The latest figures available state that over 10,000,000 Beercationers visited over 4,100 craft beer makers in the U.S. alone and many have visited abroad as well.
Discovering and experiencing something different, something you didn’t expect and sharing that discovery with others is the reward for your travels. Finding those unique beers that excite you, that stop you in your tracks, and make you say, "I have to take this home to share with my friends.” Meeting fellow craft beer lovers along the way and sharing your love for the craft with others has created and expanded the craft beer lovers’ community. We learn from and love to share with our ever-expanding community members.
As a craft beer enthusiast myself, and a frequent business traveler, I often have the opportunity to taste the best brews of local areas. I also have the opportunity to take some of the best examples home with me. Now for all of you that have done this before, you know where this is going. It isn’t easy to take beer home. Try wrapping a bomber, crowler, or 750ml in zip lock bags or wrapping them in bubble wrap. Maybe you wrap them in "borrowed" hotel towels. There are always those bulky 12-bottle shipping boxes with Styrofoam inserts. Is this the way you want to handle the spoils of your visit to the Shelton Brothers Festival, Dark Lord Day, or any other destination you are visiting in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world? Up until recently, our options have been limited and none of them satisfactory.
Like many of you, I was looking for a better solution to traveling with my beer. I finally found it, the VinGardeValise! It was originally designed for traveling with wine. “Why do the wine travelers get everything?” It turns out they don’t. The manufacturer has gotten creative and made the case adaptable to beer, spirits, and all manner of bottled liquids.
After a few more months of debating whether to keep making do, I decided to pull the trigger and I bought a VinGardeValise. At the time, I knew that the case had its limitations because it was designed for wine and not for the many odd shapes of beer containers. But it was a risk that I was willing to take after speaking with some of their fantastic customer service agents about the type of "memory" foam used for the inserts. I was happy to play around with how to adjust my own VinGardeValise to accommodate the varying container sizes that the craft beer industry uses.
The VinGardeValise comes standard with inserts designed to handle 750ml wine bottles and in some cases, they work fine with a little padding from extra foam pieces that come with the case. But with the release of the Do-It-Yourself inserts which are designed to replace the standard wine bottle inserts, I gained a lot more flexibility. I can reshape the inserts to securely hold what I am carrying and then reshape them over and over again, depending on what I am carrying.
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After receiving my suitcase from VinGardeValise, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the case and by the company’s customer service. After some ~100 flights across the country in the last year, I can honestly say this case has held up pretty darn well. Oh, did I say that the case itself is a discrete, 4 wheel, spinner suitcase especially dimensioned for its purpose so it is easy to maneuver. Fully loaded, it will typically weigh under the 50lb economy class weight limit for a suitcase too.
Some of my trips are shorter and I don’t always need the full capacity of my case for traveling to or from with my beer. When that happens, I remove the inserts I don’t need and pack clothes or other items in their place.
Over the past year, I've visited more breweries than I can count, collected several hundred bottles, and made countless friends sharing what I love with those who enjoy craft beer as much as I do. I am proud to say that when my fellow beer lovers see my case, many experience suitcase envy. It always elicits questions and comments.
Wine lovers may have gotten it first but if you are one of the many beer lovers who travel and you are looking for a more functional and practical alternative to your current method of transporting your beer, the VinGardeValise is worthy of your attention. And I guarantee that after a few trips you will offset your shipping costs for shipping your favorite brews home when you travel and your beer will be with you and not with a shipper.
There's always one bottle in the case that is infected…
Is any solution ever 100% perfect? No but sometime, the imperfection lies elsewhere.
In only one case out of over 100, did I experience an issue. The VinGardeValise received the worst treatment any case could get from baggage claims personnel. The bag was visibly damaged due to the mishandling. The capped top of one of the 750ml bottles in the case loosened and some precious liquid from a beloved barley wine seeped out of the cap losing around 10 oz. of liquid. On a positive note, cleaning was a breeze as the foam inserts can be wiped down and the polyester material is easily cleaned with a washcloth and soap.