Where do you buy your beer from?
The pub perhaps? Or the supermarket? In today’s world, probably the internet as well.
So far, my Year in Beer challenge has led me through the bright lights of the supermarkets, the dusty shelves of bottle shops, online, to service stations and, just recently, to spend a sunny afternoon at a beer festival. And it isn’t over yet!
Where to get beer from wasn’t a question that popped into my mind when I decided to start drinking my way through the Independent’s list of the top 50 beers. I had scanned the list. I recognised several of the breweries. I knew they were all UK or Irish beers. No problem!
And to be perfectly honest, up until now, that has been true. I started out in the supermarket, where beers from Youngs, Timothy Taylor, Fullers, Brakspear, Wells and Innis and Gunn were all easily obtained. Being in the South West, it also meant that Otter and Badger beers were stocked on supermarket shelves as well as in the pubs.
Then there are the specialist retailers. On the edge of Exeter lies Dart’s Farm, home to a great number of bottled beers from around the country. They concentrate mainly on the South West, however I have been able to pick up beers from Sam Smith, Guinness and William Brothers as well as those from closer to home.
Having exhausted the supply of local beers, as well as those available in the supermarkets and at Dart’s Farm, where should I turn next?
The internet seemed like the next logical place to go. I had never bought beer online before and I had never considered that you could. But it makes perfect sense. You can get everything else online, so why not beer? I soon landed on a couple of sites that allow you to create a pick and mix box of beer from the vast array of bottles they stock. When my first order arrived from Ales by Mail, I felt as though I was a little boy at Christmas. Inasmuch as I had an exciting present to open, not that I routinely received bottles of beer as Christmas presents, I should hasten to add.
Not all of these online sites stock the same range of beers, so I have also made use of Beers of Europe, who operate a very similar system. Through these two sites, I have been able to acquire a further 19 of the 50 beers on the list. Beers that I just haven’t been able to find locally to buy.
A special mention also needs to be made of Bier Huis in Yorkshire. Whilst I haven’t bought many beers from them, their customer service was excellent. A simple mix up in beers was quickly and painlessly resolved. When you’re working to a specific list, you can get quite demanding!
This challenge has turned into a bit of a quest as well. Visiting friends, we passed a beer shop and I had disappeared inside before they knew it (Meantime London Lager: tick). On our visit to Scotland, we pop into a supermarket and I hotfoot it across to the beer aisle (nothing I hadn’t already sourced from elsewhere on that occasion). With my brother in North Wales, I make him take me to the local bottle shop in case those elusive Welsh beers are in stock (they weren’t). I’m starting to worry about how this appears to the casual onlooker, as I’m drawn to stare at shelves of beer, occasionally consulting a battered piece of paper from my pocket.
On our way home from Scotland we stopped at the Westmorland Services on the M6 (which I would heartily recommend as being far and away the best service station I have ever been to). They sold beer, so I was automatically sucked towards that area of the shop, and I was amazed to find not one, but two of the missing beers from the list. Grinning slightly maniacally, I clutched my finds to my chest and rushed to the checkout.
See what I mean? I’m getting a little obsessed.
To be continued…