A while back I was offered (and eventually accepted) free beer, in exchange for a mention in a blog post. A few weeks ago, I wrote the following whilst in a pub, with the intention of posting it when I returned home later in the day.
I bought a bunch of beer from Wales when I was in Cardiff earlier this week, so expect that as a Friday Pint soon. Tickets for the Beer Bash are still on sale, and you should totally buy one, because that’s what awesome people do, and you are awesome, aren’t you?
Anyway, here’s the post…
Beer, the great lubricator of the mind, he types, as he sits, writing about himself whilst sat drinking a pint of Pilgrims Pale Ale in The Platform Tavern. In the near or perhaps distant future, a reader will take in his words, wondering why he has chosen to write the post in this way, and whether or not he’ll be able to continue referring to himself in the third person until the end of the post.
As a narrative voice, in this blog post about the experiences of a man they call Mr. David J, I would like to take you back a couple of months. David was offered a free case of beer, in exchange for mentioning belgianbeerz.com. The e-mail sat in his inbox until David also recieved an e-mail offering a free case of beer in exchange for mentioning beer52.com (That fulfils my obligation right?). David had a thought. He could take both companies up on their offer, and use the experiences of the delivery, communication, and packaging, in s comparative blog post.
To start with, a brief comparison of online beer shops, and high street beer shops. Online Beer Shops can be great. They can offer a great selection of beers that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you. High street beer shops on the other hand, are often more limited in what they can offer, but what they can offer is an opportunity to study the products, and actually talk to people about them, people who could give you reccomendations based on personal experience, rather than the experience of an algorithm that remembers that people who bought Fenwick’s Mousetrapper also bought Perry Tate’s IPA.
One of my main deterrences from using online beer stores is the reliability of delivery companies. This is, some would say, not the fault or responsibility of the online retailer, however, if there were a significant number of issues with deliveries, the retailer would be hard pushed not to consider changing their choice of deliver.
In the case of BelgianBeerz.com, Lode seemed like a very nice guy to deal with, and the range and prices of the beers on the website seemed reasonably fair. The one thing that would put me off using the site to order some more beer, is the fact that the UK side of the delivery is handled by Yodel. A company who I have yet to actually recieve a delivery on the day I actually expect it.
Admittedly it would be unfair to place blame on Yodel or Lode due to the confusion that took place over which address to send the package to. Regardless of what mistakes were made, it’s still Yodel, and I still try to avoid Yodel where I can.
Moving onto a physical retailer, Bitter Virtue in Southampton is probably my go to shop for beer these days, especially as it’s a good source for local beers from breweries like Dancing Man, Vibrant Forest, and Bowman’s Ales. Compared to some other physical retailers, some of it’s prices can be slightly higher. This would matter if I was reguarly travelling to where other retailers were anyway, which at the moment, I’m not.
Despite it’s size, Bitter Virtue has an extensive beer list that continues to grow, and as it’s not in a trendy part of the beer world, it can often be possible to still pick up the sought after hyped beers (Unhuman Cannonball for example) without having to be hitting F5 at 8:30 on the day of release.
One shop that can fit into both physical and online retailer is Teign Cellars in Newton Abbot. Prior to heading down there for this years Maltings Festival, I looked at their website to see what they had. The prospect of Wild Beer’s Ninkasi Premier Cru at around £2 a bottle less than I would pay for it at Bitter Virtue appealed to me a lot..
I went to the Teign Cellars pub (on which the bottle shop is located, in fridges, down the steps to your left as you enter), expecting to find some there. I was out of luck. I bought some Modus Operandi and Sourdough anyway and sought about the best way of obtaining the beer I craved. (Ninkasi Premier Cru, for those who have yet to experience it, is like Ninkasi, only ten times better. For those who have yet to experience Ninkasi, it’s like your favourite beer, only ten times better).
I later discovered that I could have preordered what I wanted and collected it at the store, rather than have it delivered to me for the £9.95 (or however much it is, the point is, I could have avoided the delivery charge, making the beer cheaper. As it was, each bottle still worked out around 50p cheaper than Bitter Virtue).
The problem with the Teign Cellars online store, is that there are some bottles that are listed as being in stock, that were actually out of stock. To the companies credit, they did offer me alternatives, and the communication was adequate.
One problem I had with all three retailers, is that none of them offered me a tracking number by default. Lode of Belgianbeerz.com did tell me that as my delivery was seperate from the system, I didn’t recieve an e-mail informing me of my tracking number (which he supplied to me). Neither Beer52 or Teign Cellars supplied me with a tracking number.
Did I mention earlier how I’m hesitant to order beer online due to the reliability of some delivery companies?
Onto my fourth and fifth retailers of the post, Stirchley Wines and Cotteridge Wines. Two shops that are within walking (ten minutes) distance of each other, so really, if you’re visiing one, it’d be rude not to visit the other. It would be easy of me to lend bias towards Stirchley WInes and Krishan, given that he is one of the Birmingham Beer Bash team (Tickets to the festival now available from here), but really, I’d be letting you down if I didn’t tell you to visit both.
There are some beers that Cotteridge stock that Stirchley don’t, and vice versa. Likewise, there are some beers that are cheaper at Stirchley than they are at Cotteridge, and vice versa. With the two shops within close proximity, it makes sense to go between the two and try to get the best deal for yourself.
Last but not least, the other company who offered me free beer. Beer 52 isn’t an online store as such. It’s a subscription service that you can cancel at anytime.
I must admit, that I was skeptical when I first recieved the e-mail. Then I read around, and recieved the box, which contained 8 beers that I hadn’t tried before for just £24 including postage. The beers were well packaged, along with an A5 four page guide to each bottle, including details on the beer, the brewery, and what foods to pair it with.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I have to worry about being in when the delivery comes, Beer52’s service would be rather tempting to me. As it is, I probably won’t be subscribing anytime soon, but don’t let that put you off. £24 for a box of 8 beers is a rather reasonable price.
And so there it was. He finished his little review and returned back to the third person, having completely failed to maintain writing the post in the style throughout. Join us next time intrepid reader, when we shall be exploring the world of whatever happens between now and then, or maybe something else.
belgianbeerz.com and beer52.com both sent me free beer in exchange for a mention on this blog. Visit them, don’t visit them, google them to see what others are saying. Have a nice weekend.
Edit: Since writing this post, I’ve been made aware that some people have been unhappy with the way that Beer52 is run, in particular when it comes to cancelling a subscription. As I was not part of the subscription process I can’t comment from personal experience, though it is easy to find other people’s complaints if you search around.