I’m reviewing Beer52, a box of ten (ooops, spoiler!) amazing craft beers from breweries featured in this year’s Indy Man Beer Con in Manchester.
Beer52 is a craft beer club subscription service that sends you eight (£24) or ten £29 beers every month. Delivery is free.
You can choose a mixed case, from light pale ales to dark, rich stouts; or a lighter case of lighter, hoppier beers. including pale ales, IPA’s and anything unique on the lighter side.
Also included is a snack and a copy of Ferment magazine.
Before I start properly, I have to add a little note about the pictures.
Usually I make an effort to take pretty pictures with a proper background in natural light and artfully placed items. Very Instagram-worthy and all that.
This time it has been necessary to be rather more utilitarian. As there were ten beers to get through (sometimes with the assistance of Big C) it took me a couple of weeks. There’s a limit to how much beer I can drink, and still take sensible and legible notes. Also, the notion of doing the school run with a hangover does not appeal. Beer was drunk at night, after supper-making and child-wrangling, so pictures were taken under the pitiless LED overhead kitchen lights. Also visible is some of the detritus of family life.
Oh, and I like drinking from the bottle, which is why there is usually only a little bit of beer in the glass, to see the colour and head. I appreciate this may be heresy to the aficionado, but tough.
Anyway, these pictures reflect the ‘real-life’ experience of trying this delicious case of beer!
This satisfyingly heavy box arrived by courier. Very exciting indeed!
Eight bottles and two cans.
It was interesting fitting them all into the fridge.
Also included, as well as the little bonus snack, is the quite wonderful magazine, Ferment.
I’m going to take a moment to rave about this magazine.
It’s beautifully designed and produced, with minimal intrusive advertising and a shitload of interesting articles.
Usefully, it also contains tasting notes for each of the beers contained in this month’s case.
Yes, those are my own notes there as well. And yes, that is my handwriting when sober. Can you imagine what it would look like after more than two beers?
OK, let’s have a proper look at the beers (in no particular order).
Five Points Brewing Co.: Five Points Pils
Pilsner Lager, 4.8%
This is an unfiltered and unpasteurized Pilsner. The flavour is light and crisp, almost sour. Very refreshing.
Ridgeside Brewing Co.: Saison ’17
Farmhouse Ale (barley/wheat/oats), 5.2%
This was actually not in the magazine, so I assume it was a substitution for something else. As is happened, this was my favourite! I’m a huge fan of wheat beer, and this was perfect. It smelled fruity, and tasted juicy, zingy, and almost sweet.
As I wrote in my notes, YUM!
Siren Craft Brew: Broken Dream
Breakfast Stout, 6.5%
Now, I don’t drink stout for breakfast (I think it would be frowned upon on the school run) but if I did, I would definitely consider this. I’ve never been a stout fan, but this rather changed my mind.
It smells rather sweet, but has a rich dark flavour with lots of chocolate. It’s quite dry, with bitter notes at the end, but really rather delicious.
Fierce Beer: Moose Mousse
Chocolate Stout, 4.5%
This didn’t smell of very much, but the flavour was decidedly savory. I found it tasted much more of coffee than chocolate, so maybe sort of mocha at a push. It didn’t taste nearly as chocolaty as the Broken Dream. It was OK, but it wasn’t as tasty as the Breakfast Stout.
Dry & Bitter Indy-Man Bale Ale
Session IPA, 4.6%
This one was Big C’s favourite (‘absolutely delicious!’) but I liked it a lot too!
It smelled like tropical fruits, and the taste was equally fruity. It had strong grapefruit tones, rather like Brewdog’s Elvis Juice but more subtle. Incredibly refreshing.
Buxton Brewery: Kingslayer
Double IPA, 8.0%
This smelled quite grapefruity, but I found it more bitter and less dry than the Indy-Man. (Big C disagreed with me on this.) It wasn’t very fizzy, and while it was nice, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Indy-Man.
Also, while it didn’t taste strong, that 8% ABV has a kick! After this one I went to sleep.
Buxton Brewery: Patersbier
Belgian Ale, 4.0%
I thought this smelled lemony and slightly sour. The flavour was quite savory, but it was very refreshing. According to the notes in the magazine this is high on the bitter flavour and low on the fruity flavour, but I definitely found there lemony-ness crept through.
Buxton Brewery: Sonrisa
American Pale Ale, 4.7%
This was wonderful, and came a close second to the Saison. It smelled lemony and slightly sharp. The taste was also heavy on the lemon, very juicy but not quite sweet. There was very little fizz, but it was incredibly refreshing with a lovely sour note at the end.
Five Points Brewing Co.: Brick Field Brown
Brown Ale, 5.4%
Brown Ale is always something I’ve avoided, primarily because the only one of which I’m aware is the ubiquitous Newcastle Brown, which I find revolting.
This one was not at all revolting, though I wasn’t that wild about it. It smelled distinctly nutty, and tasted almost caramel/chocolaty. The flavours were distinctive and interesting, but not really my thing.
Buxton Brewery: Pale
Blond Ale, 5.2%
This was the fourth and last of the Buxton Brewery beers. It has a sweet smell, and some similarities with the Sonrisa, but had a more bitter edge and much more complex mixed fruit flavours. It had a gentle fizz and a full flavour. Most delicious.
Well, this was just a fascinating experience. While I do love craft beer, I buy it from the supermarket (Tesco and Waitrose have a surprisingly good range) and tend to stick with the same ones: Brewdog, Blue Moon (yum), Meantime etc.
This case gave me a fantastic opportunity to expand my horizons, and to try things I’d never normally touch, such as stout and brown ale. I’m not planning to continue with the brown ale experiment, but I’m definitely more openminded about stout!
It was also great fun to properly taste the beer and really think about what I was tasting and smelling.
Beer52 sources their craft beers from small producers and microbreweries that you would never find in the supermarket. Unless you really go looking for these things, or live near a specialized shop or bar, it’s pretty difficult to find these relatively niche products.
This is also a wonderful way for these breweries to increase their reach and find new customers.
As to value, I think this is an excellent price. £2.90 per beer (delivery is free) is far cheaper than you would find in any bar, and even though supermarkets are cheaper you’re not going to find these in your local Tesco.
I didn’t get as much chance as I would have liked to share everything with Big C, because he was out most evenings. But one of the wonderful things about this kind of tasting range is the social conversational aspect of it. The few times we tasted beers together, it was a lot more fun!
As Christmas isn’t that far away, this would be a magnificent present, or of course this would be a lovely treat for any beer drinker, including yourself.
Whether you’re a serious craft beer nut, or simply want to try a few new things, this is a simply marvellous, and very well-priced, subscription box of deliciousness.
A different version of this review was first published on allsubscriptionboxes.co.uk.