By Mark Rochleau
This past fall, my wife and I decided it was time to move from one beer city to another beer city. We were fortunate to have found a great place near Grand Rapids, Michigan where the laundry room could be modified into a brew room with little effort (which, to the great relief of my wife, takes me out of brewing in the kitchen).
The first time I moved across the country I just had my homebrewing starter box and a brew pot, so that fit nicely in a U-Haul towed behind my truck. Seven years later, my brewing equipment collection had expanded greatly, filling up half a bedroom and taking up a lot more room than a small U-Haul trailer could contain. Not to mention, we had to move the rest of our house with us as well.
Turns out a lot of people are moving these days, so finding a reputable and economical moving company was not easy. Our first choice involved companies such as U-Pack-It or PODS, who provide a truck or container you pack yourself, and they deliver it to your new location—that way strangers aren’t loading and unloading your items. Unfortunately we found out these companies were either booked 10 weeks out, or didn’t have sufficient quantities of PODS for our needs. We needed to consider other options.
Do Your Homework
Not all experiences or companies will be the same, so it is important to do your research. While searching for moving companies, we were shocked at the estimates being provided, and thought we struck gold when a company reached out to us and said that they were going to have a truck in the area, needed to head east during our time frame, and could offer giant discounts. We later found out that this is a common moving broker technique, and that such brokers are not even necessary. You can find a moving company that does all the estimating, dispatching, and actual moving. Brokers serve as a third party and farm out your moving logistics with actual movers. Brokers provide you no way to vet the actual movers until they show up to pack your stuff. Plus, the second you sign a contract with the movers, your broker contract is null and void and you lose any support and coordination. You also lose money to the third-party surcharges, and any promises the brokers made you are not necessarily honored by the actual moving company.
To get an accurate estimate from a moving company, you’ll need the majority of your items packed up, as they count boxes and large equipment in terms of cubic footage. Oversize items may have an upcharge, too. We’ll get into the inventory and packing of your items shortly. You’ll want to be as accurate as possible, since if you have more items that need to be packed, you’ll pay for the extra space, and likely incur fees; and if you have less, then you are just paying for unused space. To best lock in your rates, look for companies offering “Binding Estimates Not To Exceed”, that provide a locked-in rate if you require more or less space. Best yet, find a company that charges by weight rather than volume.
Additionally, you’ll want to lock in your insurance coverages before the pick-up day. Moving companies are federally bound to provide two types of insurance: Basic Carrier Liability and Full Value Protection. Basic Carrier Liability pays up to 60 cents per pound per item. That means a $400 SS BrewTech Fermenter that weighs 25 pounds would only have $15 worth of coverage. Full Value Protection typically costs more, but when you have thousands of dollars invested in your property, it’s worth it. Homeowner Policies typically don’t cover your items unless something catastrophic happens during the move, such as the truck going off a cliff. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has great information to help you prepare and understand all phases of a cross-country move.
Packing, Labeling, and Inventory
Luckily for us brewers, the stringent cleaning and care our craft requires already has us well organized, and that can help with packing. Movers cannot take liquids, so sharing your brews during a going away party helps. I also found that this a great time to purge equipment that I no longer use. Inventory your items to the best extent practical by taking a ton of photos and writing down a list your equipment, along an approximate weight for each item.
Packing in good, sturdy boxes will help protect your items during loading and unloading, and that may occur more than you’d think. Moving companies don’t tell you this, but once your items are picked up, they may be stored in one or more storage units, then might be moved to a dispatch location, and then likely loaded in another truck with other families’ items before delivering to your destination. This can mean a lot of handling. Plastic totes can be brittle and break during this process.
Make sure to use permanent marker on each box, and write the room designation, your destination address, and maybe your own box inventory coding. I’d lean away from writing the actual contents on the box, since these are your personal, and potentially valuable items. I would recommend adding your name and phone number to the exterior of the boxes, in case they get misplaced or shipped to the wrong location. Carboys seem to fit nicely in plastic buckets, or in fermentation vessels. To make boxes taller for larger equipment, you can take two of the same-sized boxes and invert one to stack onto the second box. Secure glass in bubble wrap or paper, since your boxes will be stacked, thrown, and dropped. Your items will likely be stored in a unit without air conditioning, so consider moving temperature-sensitive items such as hops and grain with you, as opposed to moving them with your larger equipment.
When your moving truck arrives at your new location, take out your inventory list and cross things off as they are delivered. You’ll want to notify the moving company of anything missing or obviously damaged. Take photos of anything damaged, as you’ll need to file a claim later on. Unfortunately, moving claims and fraud are such widespread events that any claims through federal entities are quite time consuming and these agencies are limited in their ability to help.
Hopefully your items hare delivered intact for brewing. Unpacking is a great time for in-depth cleaning and reorganization. I’d suggest running through a brew day dry run so you can figure out if anything is missing or damaged before you need it, say, during a boil. As I write this, I am still finding items that were lost in transit.
We’re going to miss our old homebrew shop and those who helped us grow as brewers. Finding a new homebrew shop will help us meet more people in the industry that hopefully push us further in our development. Don’t forget that the American Homebrewer’s Association has a “Find a Homebrew Supply Shop” page. https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/find-a-homebrew-supply-shop/
Moving is inherently stressful, but hopefully, this guide will help you avoid the mistakes I made going cross-country. Happy Brewing!
Mark G. Rocheleau is an award-winning homebrewer and previous Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am participant that relocated from one beer city, Denver, to another beer city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mark’s homebrewing adventures can be followed on Instragram @RedDeerBrewery