As has been widely discussed here and elsewhere, the past few years have seen an explosion of brewing in the UK. We crossed the 1000 breweries mark a couple of years ago now, and things show no sign of slowing down – the count has more than doubled in the last decade.
Things haven’t gone so well on the consumer side. CAMRA tells us that we continue to lose dozens of pubs every week. Although the supermarkets made a bit of an effort some years ago, their beer ranges have remained fairly static (and certainly largely closed to newer breweries) and have recently been badly eroded by the rise of the strange, fruity alcopops that industrial “brewers” are somehow able to get away with labelling as “cider”.
A few specialist beer shops have popped up on high streets, but they’re few and far between – and who wants to be lugging a couple of dozen bottles of beer home on the bus?
For those of us who want to enjoy the fruits of this expansion, technology comes to the rescue in the form of a growing pack of online beer retailers. There are few better ways to buy beer than sat comfortably at home, browsing the huge ranges available and having them turn up at your door a few days later. But in a crowded market, how do all these shops distinguish themselves?
EeBria do so by operating very differently from a conventional shop – they are closer to a portal, in that although you place your order with them, it’s the breweries themselves that fulfil that order.
This makes a lot of sense for EeBria, because they’re saved the logistical headaches of operating their own warehouse and managing their stock levels. However, this approach isn’t done to make their own lives easier, as founder David explained when commenting on my recent post:
I wanted to make sure that whenever customers buy beer, they are getting it in the best possible condition – hence all beers being sent from the brewery. It’s stored in the brewery, as the brewer would want it to be kept right up to the point it gets handed to the courier.
When the brewer essentially hands you their beer directly, it should be about as good as it gets – so this is a model that sounds like a stroke of genius.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. When I go beer shopping, I generally end up grabbing bottles from a number of different breweries – I can’t help myself, the whole joy of today’s brewing scene is the huge variety available. Unfortunately, with EeBria’s warehouse-free model, ordering beer from 5 different breweries results in 5 different boxes and, yes, 5 different delivery charges.
Fortunately, they’ve introduced their “Discovery Club” subscriptions, which address this last point. Each month they assemble a dozen bottles from their breweries and send them out to subscribers – a dozen different breweries and, critically, only one delivery charge.
Because the boxes are all sent out at once, EeBria are able to bring the beers together immediately before dispatch, keeping true to their aspiration of freshness. The downside of this is a lack of flexibility in what you get but sometimes, quality is worth a little sacrifice.
The box I was sent certainly provided an excellent range, with offerings from young breweries like Five Points’ Pale and Partizan’s frankly stunning X-Ale, to bottles from more established names such at Otley’s Oxymoron. They’ve all been in excellent condition, phenomenally well packed and at £32, represent fair value.
I have a fairly steady stream of incoming beer, or this would be a tempting regular subscription – a crafty pot-luck appearing on your doorstep every month (or two, or three) is definitely my kind of delivery!
Pete Drinks was sent a sample Discovery Club box by EeBria.