You've gotta pick a bottle or two

I chimed into a recent Beer Advocate forum thread about where to buy bottled beer in the UK; it really got me thinking.

Buying good bottled beer in the UK is just getting better and better.

Supermarket shelves are no longer stuffed with boring brown crud. I can buy Brewdog Punk IPA on my way to work via Asda. Sainsbury's have a solid range and go out on a limb with some of their annual beer challenge selections. Tesco have Flying Dog. Waitrose stock the wares of 80+ British brewers between their stores. Booths is a beer retailing legend. Co-op have their excellent Freeminer range. Marks and Spencer have own-label beers brewed by major UK names.

Mail order gives the shopper a chance to buy the finest (and sometimes rarest) of UK, continental and world beers. Beers Of Europe have a jaw-dropping range of European beers plus US oddities. Beermerchants are at the pointy end of market stimulation - how about stuff from Viven or US brewers such as Lost Abbey and Founders that can't even be bought in the majority of US states? Then there's, specialising in helping UK microbrewers get to market through their merchant services whilst also branching out into rare Italian and US beers.

Direct sales from the brewers themselves can be a bargain and a revelation. Bulk shipments of your favourites; first dibs on the rarities. I'm thinking about the likes of Brewdog online plus a host of brewers with shops in sheds, outhouses and brewhouses: Humpty Dumpty, Amber Ales, Old Chimneys, Nutbrook, Hopshackle.

Independent off-licenses excite; for the chance to chew the fat with someone and pick up a recommendation, for the oddity brews, for the joy of finding local beer in a local shop. I've found many and loved them all; the likes of Liquid Treasure (Belper), Red Zebra (Derby), Archer Road Beer Stop (Sheffield), The Offie (Leicester), Utobeer (London). And there's still many with a great rep that I've yet to seek out - Beer Ritz in Leeds, Stirchley Wines in Birmingham, Bacchanalia in Cambridge, Kris Wines in London.

The more I think, the more I recollect; a good mixed selection from Ales By Mail, Kernel beers at Sourced in St. Pancras, Marches Little Beer Shoppe in Ludlow. And I forgot farmer's markets - like Amber Ales at Belper, cask beer poured into two-pint carryouts. And the Original Farmers Market Shop in Bakewell where I once bought ***** and ******* after even the brewer had sold out of it (I'd tell you the names of the beers but then I'd have to kill you).

Let's be clear here. This is not a marketing roll call. Yes, I've written about some of those outfits; I've carried out paid work for some, some have sent me free beer. I just want people to realise that there is a HUGE amount of great bottled beer sat out there. Some of it you'll need to drive down grassy lanes to find during the three hours when the brewery shop is open. Some of it will be in a shop in a town where perhaps you least expect to find it. Some of it will be just round the aisle from Blossom Hill and not necessarily on your eye-line. Lots of it is only a few tinterweb clicks away.

But.. if you want it, if you want to travel across the country or just get a courier to ship it to you... great beer is out there. You've just gotta go get it.

1 comment:

  1. It is, is really is. I used to be concsious when doing the beer & food matches on the blog about finding beers that were too esoteric and no-one would be able to find for the average joe - but now it really isnt a problem. A wonderful explosion in choice, it really is.