When you write about beer, people want you to write about their beer, and because of this, you are often contacted by breweries, retailers or PR firms. I admit that this prospect was enticing when I decided to start a beer blog, but it certainly wasn’t my motivation for doing so. Writing about beer because you feel obliged to is dull and passionless, and this will be evident in your writing. The post I have least affection for on Brew Geekery is a review of three beers sent to me by the PR acting on behalf of Freedom Brewery. The beers were fine but uninspiring, and so was the post. To this end, I refuse more offers of beer than I accept, and when I do accept, it’s on the proviso that my review will be honest (whether or not I achieve objectivity is another matter).
So far, so po-faced (or how to have your cake and eat it). Whatever.
I was recently emailed by Mark Fretwell, founder of Imperial Beer Club, with an offer of a box of beers for review. I said I’d happily take him up on his offer; however, I’m more interested in the concept of Imperial Beer Club than the beers themselves (although there were a few belters contained within the box). I’m not going to tell anyone to sign up – I don’t have a beer club subscription and have no intention of signing up for one anytime soon. I formerly had a BeerBods subscription but cancelled it as I found I was rarely available for the shared tasting, and as a control freak, the prospect of someone else choosing my beers caused endless consternation.
So what about Imperial Beer Club? The idea is self explanatory – it’s a monthly subscription of high ABV beers. This is its USP, and it’s a good one. We can analyse and eulogise beer until the dray horses come home or whatever, but the main reason we drink alcohol is to get a warm fuzzy feeling. Low- to mid-strength beers are good in a pub context as we tend to drink faster and therefore more when in this setting (with the fastest drinker dictating the pace of the rest if drinking in rounds), but we tend to drink less volume when drinking at home. Therefore, to achieve the aforementioned fuzzy glow, stronger beers are required. That’s not to say that high ABV beer = good beer, but reassuringly the box I was sent contained such crackers as Pressure Drop’s Syd Strong, Siren’s Pompelmocello and Northern Monk’s Smokin’ Bees. Also, of the ten beers in the box, I’d only had three before, which is good for someone as predictable in their beer drinking as I am (although that anxiety about others choosing my beers did resurface).
I asked Mark to expand on Imperial Beer Club’s ethos. ‘We decided on the high ABV concept because so many of the beers with bold flavour profiles that we were interested in fell into that category, and no one else was offering this as a subscription.’ Initially beers at 6% and above was the benchmark, but according to Mark ‘running the club with a sense of community is important, so after the first couple of boxes we asked people what they wanted and the number one request was to up the alcohol content. So that’s what we are doing, and from February 2017 onward our new boxes have a minimum ABV of 7%.’
I do wonder how sustainable the concept is, but then again breweries seem happy to enthusiastically explore beer styles that lend themselves to a higher ABV. If that’s your bag and you decide to sign up to Imperial Beer Club then that’s swell – just be sure to mention my name as I expect a percentage.
As stated these beers were sent to me free of charge and while I don’t believe that influenced this post, I may well be wrong. For more information go to imperialbeerclub.com