Posted by: Scott | April 16, 2010

Beer of the Month Club

Last Christmas, I received a gift from my cousin and comrade in ales, Shawn Rexius (whom I cannot in good conscience mention without bringing up his twin, Shane, who is also my brotha from anotha motha), and his super-cool wife, Tiffany. The gift? A three-month subscription to this Beer of the Month Club (hereby abbreviated BM — stop giggling). When each new shipment arrived, it felt like a bonus Christmas morning — and this time Santa brought the good stuff.

Now, three months later, my BM is over (I said stop giggling), and no amount of freshly baked pretzels will coax that jolly old drunkard out of hiding. ‘Twas amazing while it lasted, though. My subscription worked something like this: On the 23rd day of the month, I’d hear a knock on the door; I’d look outside; I’d find a medium-sized box containing twelve bottles of beer. Four varieties per box. Three bottles of each. Mostly American craft brews, but a few imports too.

Looking back, I can choose my favorite easily: Snake River Brewing Company’s Zonker Stout, a superbly balanced dark ale that won a silver medal in the 2010 World Beer Cup. Upon opening a bottle, rich roasted malt and bitter chocolate appease your nose, while flavors of coffee, cocoa, and smoky grains melt in your mouth (though, if placed in your hand, they would presumably dribble over your fingers and onto the floor — bad form, dude). After my first bottle, I nearly chugged the other two. The subscription yielded several other solid beers, such as the sweetly spiced Barbar Winter Bok and the smooth, fruity Emancipator Doppelbock, but none reached such heights in balance and flavor as “The Zonk.” Note to Snake River: Call me if you want the rights to that kickass nickname.

Most of the other beers were drinkable but commonplace — the kind you’re glad to have around when you run out of the beers you love because, well, you’re still craving a cold one, and you gotta drink something. These included Heavy Seas Pale Ale and Sweetwater Georgia Brown, beers that were consumed without complaint but will probably never visit my fridge again.

Now for the bad. Or the ugly. Actually, one of these beers embodied both. You might remember Sherwood Forest’s Friar’s Belgian-Style White Ale from Beer Basics | The Wit. It’s worth mentioning again here. During my first sip I decided it belonged on my beers-I-despise list. Everyone on Beer Advocate seemed to miss one flavor in particular, but I placed it instantly: cigarettes. This beer smelled like the upholstery in my grandma’s car; it tasted as if the ingredients list should read “barley, hops, yeast, ashtray.” I almost didn’t swallow it – a vague, nagging sense of consuming something foreign and unwholesome closed my throat – but I forced it open and swallowed anyway, not once, not twice, but thrice! to judge it fairly. I was. And am.

By now you might think that my BM experience was somewhat hit and miss. I loved a few beers, merely enjoyed others, and genuinely hated one. But I also gained a deeper understanding of why these kinds of clubs exist. They can’t provide what you already know you want; you’re not picking out the beers, after all, and everyone’s taste is different. Unpredictability is what makes it fun! Each month, I received a box filled not just with beer, but with possibilities, and I even enjoyed trying the bad ones because 1) I enjoy trying new things, and 2) bitching is fun. Admit it; at some point in the past you’ve tried something bad, exclaimed “someone likes this?!” and laughed with likeminded friends. Bitching is fun.

If I were to purchase a subscription of my own (which I’m seriously considering), I think I’d try a different service. See what others had to offer. That said, I’ve savored every second of this BM, and I’d recommend the experience to any and all beer lovers.

Monday: Chapter 3 in the Budget-Beer Bible.

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Responses

  1. I know i enjoyed the temporary subscription to the beer of the month club (although, as i told him, a real brother would have not subscribed for me only temporarily); and im glad you did too. It is interesting though – some of them i went through immediatly (i remember a milk stout that was phenomenal) while others languished in my fridge for maybe 3-4 months…

    here’s to one day we can afford to make it a permanent subscription…

    • That’s pretty much what happened with mine, too. But, as I said, most of the fun was just getting a box full of beer every month and trying ones you’ve never even heard of before. Thanks again!


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