Is it me, or are brewers releasing far more beers these days than they used to? I know starting a blog post with that kind of question makes me sound like an old timer rattling his cane from his easy chair, but there you go. And I’ve got no evidence with which to back this up – it just seems that since I started writing about beer all those years ago, there are more launches, more styles and ever-wider core ranges. Buxton have probably scaled back from their seventeen-strong core lineup, but they – like plenty of other breweries of the moment – continue to put out beer after beer; morning noon and night.
In no way am I complaining – having all these new beers to discover is brilliant, it’s what got me into drinking decent beer to begin with (after seeing the light and ending what is probably best described as ‘the Carling years’). But how on earth do you stay on top?
By mixing it up.
In one fell swoop, a mixed case gives you a chance to cover several months-worth of new beers at once. I’m becoming such a big fan of doing this that I’ve more or less stopped regular visits to bottle shops for three or four bottles, instead choosing to pool the beer fund and unleash once a month on a sturdy cardboard container of fun instead. The latest to arrive; twelve difference bottles from Thornbridge, who have produced some fantastic stuff over recent months, all of which I am now able to taste. Sure, it does cost more in one go than repeated impulse shelf-clearing, but it seems to me that there are so many advantages…
I think the best analogy for the importance of a mixed case is if you compare it to an album. Sure you can buy a series of singles over time and listen to your chosen hits, but listening to the album in order gives you the only chance to put everything in context, as you work through the music in sequence. How songs fit with each other, the musical timeline, hopefully gives you a better idea of the band’s talent as a whole – and mixed cases are the same. Start at the lower abv, the lager, the house pale, and work up. I think it leaves you better placed to appreciate the brewery as a result.
And that leads into the next point. If an IPA-heavy brewery continues to fire out pale and hoppy – which there is nothing wrong with, of course – then it’s easy enough to simply carry on picking them up. So when you order a dozen or two-dozen from the same producer, chances are there will be a range of styles that eventually come up the driveway with a wheezing courier. Here’s your best shot to see the overall level of expertise at this brewery. Can they do big and dark as well as light and hoppy, or are they hiding behind the dry-hop? How does the house yeast carry through? Is there balance across all styles?
Find a favourite
As I said above, getting a selection of beers from one brewery at once (even if you don’t drink them all in one sitting) leads to an ideal chance to discover new things. And carrying that example from the above paragraph onwards, if the producer does actually turn their hand to imperial stouts as well as IPA’s, then you’ve instantly found a new favourite that you might otherwise have never discovered. So next time you are in that bottle shop, maybe you’ll be able to pick something out a little different to give you a bit of all-important variety!
Finally, you can go direct to source with a mixed case – order from the official website and the beers will be fresher, they will be posted to your home (although you have to then be there) and there’s literally nothing that can go wrong! Well, until the courier leaves your mixed Thornbridge case on the doorstep without knocking and the rain soaks through the cardboard so the entire thing nearly comes apart halfway up the stairs. There’s literally nothing that can go wrong!
So that’s it – I think from now on I’ll just be buying my beer in this way, with no exceptions. Well, apart from all that US beer as the shipping costs would be huge. And there are some great Belgian beers in Edinburgh bottle shops at the moment. Plus the Anchor Seasonal will be out very soon. And it would be rude not to pop in when I’m going past, I guess…