World-class beer on your doorstep?

Sometimes, even great beer isn't good enough.

The lunchtime pint of Budvar, full of bubbles re-arranging themselves into serried ranks, was satisfying and satiating. But it left me wanting.... something else.

The afternoon pint of Thornbridge Jaipur, poured straight from the cask, was lip-smackingly citric. But it left me wanting... something different.

There's something about the lazy heat of the city, about the kick-off-your-shoes-and-do-sod-all-because-it's-Saturday feeling that makes me want to find a shaded bar with a suntrap patio. And drink the beers that are indelibly imprinted with the sense of summer for me.

Jever. Orval. Saison Dupont. Cantillon.

But those beers are rather adventurous for Derby. The odd bottle of Jever, maybe, but that's about it. We don't even have a decent offie. So, what's a poor, thirsty toper to do?

Take the bus to Belper. To Liquid Treasure.

Julie Wyllie's shop lives up to its name. Superb wines from family-run estates. Unusual liqueurs. And plenty of world-class beers. Truth be told, I don't spend too much time looking over the ample shelves, crammed to the gunwales with locals heroes from Thornbridge, Spire, Amber et al. Because in the tall fridges that fill the shop's left flank I know I will find...

Jever. Orval. Saison Dupont. Cantillon.

It's about an hour and half round bus trip from Derby for me. And it's worth every minute.

And it got me thinking: where are the great offies in the UK? Where can you wander into and come away with a cool Cantillon? Or even a brewer's minicask? They don't seem to be in the cities - I can't think of any in Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham - so are there gems tucked away in the burbs?

Because sometimes, great beer isn't enough. It's got to be world-class. And it's got to be on your doorstep.


  1. Birmingham certainly does have a quality off licence - one of the best in the UK in fact. Stirchley Wines has Cantillon, Girardin, Stone, Kernel, Orval, Rochefort, German lagers, fruit beers and the highest quality UK bottled output, including, as of today, Hard Knott. And no, I don't own or work at the establishment, though I did once live nearby.

  2. Sheffield: Rhythm and Booze in Crookes bizarrely offers growlers of Kelham Island beers, I once bought their entire stock of Mikkeller Jackie Browns though these things are few and far between. Better is the Dram Shop on Commonside: Thornbridge bottles and occasionals mini-kegs, decent british selection, great Belgians (but no Orval) and some reasonable american stuff. My local offie so I'm loyal but I wish they were more adventurous from time to time

  3. The Bottle Stop in Bramhall would certainly do you Jever and Orval, and lots of other German and Belgian stuff. Plus much of the Thornbridge range.

  4. Should you ever be in Cheltenham, I would heartily recommend Favourite Beers - a top range of British and foreign bottled beers and a cracking local cider range besides.

  5. The Dram Shop is very good, but my favourite is The Beer Parlour in Chesterfield, just up the road from the Derby Tup.

    4 handpumps and an atmosphere that puts most pubs to shame, not to forget an excellent selection of (mostly local) bottles.

  6. Reluctant Scooper31 July 2011 at 10:37

    @Dan - I've heard good things about Stirchley Wines. Another example of the suburbs providing what the city can't / won't?

    @BrotherLogic - maybe the same idea applies to the Dram Shop? The best beers are out in the 'burbs?

    @Mudge / Ian Cann - they look interesting. Favourite Beers is the kind of shop I'd love to have on my doorstep.

    @T_I_B - I still haven't made it to The Beer Parlour. I love the idea of an offie with handpulls, I can vaguely remember one in Lincoln. A Chesterfield trip - one Sunday when I can stop myself going to Sheffield - is now on the agenda.

  7. "The Offie" in Leicester - I've never been there myself, but a couple of friends can't recommend it highly enough.

  8. "Another example of the suburbs providing what the city can't / won't?"

    The affluent suburbs are likely to have the disposable income to support specialist off-licences which, by definition, are going to be dearer than Tesco or the corner shop. Also the heavy nature of the product makes convenient parking highly desirable.

    Is there maybe a risk, though, that the supermarkets steadily encroach on their territory? After all, a big branch of Tesco or Sainsbury's is now likely to have a beer selection that would not have disgraced a specialist ten years ago.

  9. Reluctant Scooper31 July 2011 at 23:04

    Leeds? Never heard of it ;-)

    Anyway, aren't you the very definition of the burbs? Near where many decent cricket teams open up a can of whoop-ass on a sad shadow of a once-mighty side...

  10. I guess you could call us the burbs by definition,(because that's where we be) but you know we still like to count ourselves part of Leeds, even if our 'city' can't provide the great beer selection that Headingley (and us) can. Part of the crew, part of the ship and all that!

  11. The Bacchanalia in Cambridge is awesome.

  12. Had a very good time chatting to Tim, prop. of Phoenix Fine Drinks in Gloucester a couple of weeks back. Very good selection indeed. Idiosyncratic pricing - unless I was mistaken, every bottled beer seemed to be priced at £2.69, with a buy 10, get two free to make up the dozen. Needless to say, we left with a dozen.

    Also (although you wouldn't know it from their website), Vino Mondo in Conwy had a rather good bottled beer selection as well as their wines and whiskies.