by Nick Moyle
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The number of ways you can get good quality beers to enjoy at home has expanded massively in recent years. From previously beer-ignorant supermarkets to specialist bottle shops and online retailers, access to local and global beers has never been greater.
Perhaps the most exciting way to get your regular fill of beer is through an online subscription club – regular deliveries of specialist beer picks, which usually offer better value than individual bottle purchases and are more than likely to introduce you to beers you wouldn’t normally find.
The subscription market has also seen a huge rise in the number of services on offer, so figuring out which one to settle on can be a tricky decision. In our list we’ve picked out the packages that offer something unique, but it’s worth exploring each of the suppliers in a little more detail as many of them provide more than one subscription model and small-print factors like postage costs and cancellation policies can vary.
When you’ve chosen your preferred option it won’t be long before you’re popping open some fantastic beers without needing to leave the house – then the only difficulty you’re likely to have is the wait for the next box to arrive.
£36 per 3 months, BeerBods
Best for: Sociable drinking
What’s included – 12 beers every 12 weeks
BeerBods has made the maths easy so subscribers are effectively getting a beer every week for £3. Drink its weekly suggestion on a Thursday night and you get an email with a story about the beer and the opportunity to share the experience in the company of others through social media (#BeerBods features high in the Twitter trending charts every week). Since starting in 2012, the beers supplied have been hugely varied – it’ll treat you to world renowned classics from the likes of Ayinger and Harvey’s, and you’ll certainly be introduced to new breweries along the way (hands up who has heard of Northern Ireland’s Hillstown or Macclesfield’s Red Willow?). It all adds up to one of the best ways to enjoy great beer.
£36.90 per month, Honest Brew
Best for: Independent craft beers
What’s included – 12 beers per month
Honest Brew prides itself on working with top quality, independent breweries and has even established an investment fund to support its key suppliers, with Falmouth’s Verdant the first to benefit. Its ability to find the rising stars of the brewing industry means the subscription boxes are packed with some of the most exciting new beers from around the world, with 8 Wired, Burning Sky and La Pirata among its ever-changing line-up of breweries. Subscribers have the option of signing up to the Honest Brew Bank too, which gives them member discounts and exclusive offers, or a more straightforward scheme providing six, nine or 12 bottles per month.
£155 per year, Best of British Beer
Best for: Traditional British beers
What’s included – 12 x 500ml bottles, 4 times a year
The Best of British boxes have a few unique features that make them more consistent than similar schemes: all of the beers come in 500ml bottles and are from British breweries. While most of the beers would be considered ‘traditional’, from producers such as Windsor & Eaton and Monty’s, the range has recently expanded to include more contemporary choices from the likes of Wiper & True and Mobberley.
Monthly subscription options are available but we like the four per year offering – customers are given flexibility of when each box arrives and can suggest their beer-style preferences for the box packers. It also comes with a few bonus treats, making it a great choice for a gift purchase.
£28 per month, Beer Merchants Club
Best for: Seasonal beers
What’s included – 10 beers per month
Beer Merchants has been importing beer to the UK for nearly 40 years and its online shop reads like a who’s who of the world’s most famous beers. The Beer Club plunders these beer stocks to deliver themed boxes that are broadly seasonal (summer sippers, winter warmers, and even a box to accompany the recent football World Cup) with the promise of never repeating the same beer twice.
The most recent ‘innovations’ box included beer from London brewers The Kernel and Brew By Numbers, along with Belgians La Trappe and Siphon, and with such a vast range of classic and modern beers at the company’s disposal you can be certain of top quality boxes whatever theme it comes up with. And as if £28 for 10 beers wasn’t value enough, club members also get 5 per cent off all orders across the Beer Merchants site.
€120 (£105) per year, Belgian Beer and Food
Best for: Rare Belgian beers
What’s included – 3 boxes per year, minimum of 6 beers per box
The cost of postage – add around €40.50 (£35.50) for the year to the UK – puts this new box firmly in the ‘expensive’ category but serious Belgian beer enthusiasts will see it as a worthy investment. The six beers in each delivery are sourced by the experts at Belgian Beer and Food magazine, using their array of contacts and knowledge to put together some exceptional limited-edition beers, including at least one brewed especially for the club. Recent deliveries have featured 75cl bottles of a rare geuze from De Cam and De Dolle’s Oerbier Reserva Purple Label, along with other highly sought after treats from Brasserie Fantôme, Struise and new lambic brewer Lambiek Fabriek.
£28 + £5.99 delivery per month, EeBria
Best for: Individual breweries
What’s included – 12 beers per month
EeBria offers a mixed-brewery Discovery Club (£32 + £5.99 delivery per month) but it’s the monthly boxes of beer from individual breweries that sets them apart. It operates as a retailer for some of the UK’s finest independent producers and each one of the boxes is sent straight from the brewery itself, meaning subscribers get the freshest beers from across the brewing range, including limited edition seasonal specials.
Recent Brewery Club suppliers have included Brick and Top Out and they’ve even teased some beers from some of their European partners, including the Netherlands excellent Brouwerij Kees. For anyone wishing to immerse their taste buds in a range of styles from some of the most exciting breweries around, this club is hard to beat.
£53 per month, Hop Burns & Back
Best for: Beer nerds
What’s included – 10-12 beers per month
Hop Burns & Black boasts boxes of beer that are “all killer, no filler” and consist of “small-batch collabs, international rarities, and HB&B exclusives.” The boxes we’ve peeked inside are certainly enough to get the beer nerd grinning with glee, featuring rare treasures that will win them bragging rights among their pals.
Reaching such beer nirvana comes at a cost – these boxes are among the most expensive you’ll find – but the individual price of such recent gems as Burnt Mill’s Ties That Bine DIPA and Siren’s Old Fashioned Barley Wine is so high that you’ll be making a saving overall. Each box also comes with expert tasting notes and food pairing suggestions to further quench subscribers thirst for beer knowledge.
£36 per month, Craft Metropolis
Best for: London breweries
What’s included – 12 beers per month
With the London brewing scene continuing to expand, it’s no surprise that the city’s beer subscription specialist Craft Metropolis is going from strength to strength. The retailer now has over 50 London breweries on board and has also invited a few other operations from further afield – including Tempest and Untity – to join the party.
In addition to the staff-pick selection at £34.50 per month, Craft Metropolis also allows subscribers the option of picking their own box for £36 (premium beers can be included for an extra cost per item). The new and established London breweries include Kernel, Kew, Jeffersons and One Mile End, making it the best way to explore the capital’s vast brewing output.
£25 per month, Flavourly
Best for: Value
What’s included – 10 beers per month
Sign up to the Flavourly Craft Beer Club and you get to choose between a dark, light or mixed monthly delivery of 10 beers, each coming with a free copy of the Flavourly magazine, which gives you in depth information on what you’re about to drink.
The beers come from some of the most popular names in craft brewing, such as Wild Beer Co and Stewart, and you’ll occasionally be treated to a ‘box takeover’ with a wide range of styles from one brewery (Tiny Rebel and Barcelona Beer Company are two breweries who have been involved). There are fewer rarities than some of its competitors but the overall range is still impressive and anyone on a beer budget will be hard pushed to find a better value box.
From £34 per month, Craved London
Best for: Beer and snacks
What’s included – 6 beers and 2 bags of jerky per month
Craved works with British craft food and drinks producers and its online shop sells a wide range of artisan produce, including pickles, perry and pastis. But it’s beer we’re most interested in and, in particular, the boxes that combine booze with bags of meaty snacks.
The range of London-based breweries represented is more limited than others on this list but with the likes of Anspach & Hobday and Pressure Drop among the ranks the quality is high. For snack lovers, the charcuterie is also top notch fare and includes salamis, chorizos and jerky that will give your teeth a good workout for ages. Beer and cured meats: what better pairing can there be to spend a few evenings with every month?
£24 per month, Beer 52
Best for: Themed boxes
What’s included – 8 beers per month
Beer 52’s themed boxes are great at offering up unexpected surprises – a recent delivery consisted entirely of beer from Balkan breweries, each one of them exclusive to the UK. Previous themes have included hard-to-get Polish beers and an international selection of German-style beers to celebrate Oktoberfest.
Each box comes with the excellent Ferment magazine, which delves a little deeper into the subject for the month’s theme, and you’ll also receive a snack to chomp on while you drink. Beer 52 is a well-established supplier that prides itself on avoiding beers you can easily find yourself, so anyone with a taste for the unexpected should be well catered for.
£25 per month + £4.94 delivery, DiscoverBrew
Best for: Learning about beer
What’s included – 6 beers per month
This new box scheme is unlikely to save you money on beer (add in the postage and it pushes £4 per bottle or can) but we like the range of beers the company is promising and it’s filmed a useful video introduction to each of the contents, which subscribers can access through scanning a QR code.
The current box includes beer from Irish brewery Whiplash and Belgian brewery De Halve Mann, and we think the selection will have quite a broad appeal, making it one of the more accessible choices for the less beer-savvy. We also liked the packaging – a beery painting features on the box cover with new artwork planned every month.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, inews