I live in California and I have some friends in Illinois who I would like to swap beers with. What is the best (cheap/safe) way to send a small amount of bottled beer (maybe 1-6 12oz bottles) to someone? It it even legal to mail beer across state lines?
Many people trade beer all the time.
It is legal, except via US Postal Service.
I think the laws around shipping via USPS are in flux, but without confirmation I'll suggest you stick to FedEx and UPS.
More info at:
Pack well and enjoy.
FedEx and UPS both require special alcohol shipping contracts that I assume are not available to consumers. USPS prohibits all alcohol shipments. However, you could just report the contents as "glassware" and I'm sure they would never know.
As for packaging, just use common sense. Glass bottles are not really that fragile — think about how they are stacked and manhandled coming off the beer distributer truck. Just pack them tight so they can't knock together and it should be fine.
Some generic HP toner cartridges come packed in handy cylindrical bubble wrap things that are just the right size for a beer bottle. I've used those successfully, as well as just bubble wrap and paper or peanuts. As long as the bottles will not contact each other or the ground, you should be fine.