Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review: Six Beer Clubs

This review, like most of the others on this blog, was initially written for my Herald column. Unlike most of them however, this one was kind of time sensitive. Life happens.

I wrote this for father's day 2015, and rather than wait until father's day 2016, I'm posting it for Mother's Day, because this week we've had International Women's Day a couple of days after Mother's Day. And, well, women like beer too, so you guys might like beer clubs, too, I guess.

So I'm rejigging it slightly for the ladies...

This mother's day, most mum's will be fair chuffed with a lie-in and a mug of tea.

But if you really want to spoil the old dear, order her a box of beer and have it delivered to the door.

Beer clubs have been popping up over the past few years, tapping into the explosion of craft beer as well as the growing confidence in buying drink online.

The idea is simple - you pay a monthly subscription and they send you a box of interesting beers each month or quarter. You then sensibly drink these beers, and, if you like, keep the subscription going. They're a brilliant way for anyone - not just mums - to discover new styles and breweries, especially if you're not lucky enough to live near a good beer shop.

One great beer club is Edinburgh-based Launched in 2013, founder James Brown got the idea during a motorbike road trip to Spain with his dad. Stopping off at wee pubs and brewhouses, he wanted to share these rare and new-found beers with drinkers back home and so came up with his beer club business idea.

Beer52's subscription is £24 per month and that gets you eight beers to your door. They also throw in occasional free gifts and a copy of Ferment, their excellent beer-focused magazine. Beer-wise, there's a good spread of beers and styles in the box, and they're usually held together by some theme or idea. They work with well-known breweries such as Stewarts, Buxton and Evil Twin, as well as others that are less well known. Heard of Ceriux or Weird Beard?

Like a couple of other beer clubs, Beer52 have started doing collaboration beers with partner breweries. This month, for example, subscribers will receive a rhubarb saison by Borders brewery Tempest. By all accounts it's delicious.

Five other beer clubs to join
Taking its name (loosely) from the Esperanto for "tipsy", EeBria has two beer clubs: the Discovery and the Brewery. The former contains a mix of styles curated from a range of UK breweries - some well known, other less so - and is designed to offer a balanced selection. The Brewery Club is a showcase of one particular brewery, and is shipped direct so it's fresh from the bottling line. Previous participants include some crackers: The Kernel, Siren, Fyne Ales, Brew By Numbers, Partizan. Costs from £30 for 12 beers plus postage.

Hippo Beers
This Glasgow beer specialist now offers a sliding scale of beer clubs, depending on your tastes and wallet size. The team pick you a bespoke selection of beers based on your preferences. With a revolving stock of some 350 beers you can be guaranteed something new, and, unlike some of the larger beer clubs, small-batch beers from wee breweries. Costs from £30.

Spun out of a gourmet food company, and inspired by the success of other craft beer clubs, Edinburgh-based Flavourly offers bespoke boxes tailored to member's preferences and styles. They also have an online shop, so if there's a beer you want again you can order it with your next box. Cost £20 for eight bottles.
Beer Hawk
What began as a conversation in a bar in Harrogate in 2012 has exploded into a slick online beer retailer that offers an impressive range of good beers from around the world. Since taking the decision to "quit the corporate job to set up a beer company", co-founder Mark Roberts has built up an online retailer that sells individual bottles and mixed cases as well as its premium beer club, which boasts some exclusive beers from partner breweries. Costs £40 plus postage for 15 bottles.
A little bit different this one. They send you 12 bottles every 12 weeks, with the idea being subscribers drink the same beer each week and share their thoughts with the rest of the BeerBods community. Or you can drink them all in one go and reorder. They work with some great breweries, and boast some pretty cool collaborations: the last one was with a 7% saison from Bristol's Wiper + True. Costs £36 every 12 weeks.

And finally ...
It's also worth mentioning BrewDog who are planning to launch their beer club in the next few weeks. This one, however, is exclusive to their equity-punk shareholders only, so you might want to consider investing in their latest crowdfunding efforts. Details still to be confirmed, but they're looking at a subscription of about £40 for 12 beers a month, though that's still to be confirmed. As well as new and exclusive BrewDog beers, expect some great ales from the likes of Mikeller, Dark Horse and Stone.

No comments: