As the craft beer industry booms, monthly subscription beer delivery services have gradually come into being in the UK. The thing that sets Imperial Beer Club apart from the rest lies in the quality of the products you'll receive for your money. Let's have a little run down of just some of the brewers who have already been involved here...
Tempest Brewing Co, Siren Craft Brew, Northern Monk Brewing Co, Weird Beard Brew Co, Mad Hatter Brewing Co, Fixed Wheel Brewery, Vibrant Forest Brewery. Are you spotting the firmly-established, highly-respected craft breweries and possibly some newer ones who are creating quite a buzz? Read on..
Ten quality-assured, high-strength beers that are packed full of flavour and worth every penny. If you're aware of other subscription services you'll see Imperial Beer Club is slightly more costly in price, and that's because you get what you pay for when it comes to modern-day craft beer, beers that set themselves apart from the rest. Sure you can go down to your local supermarket and now find a growing selection of craft beers sitting on the shelf. You won't however find any of these creations there. Other subscription beer club services in the UK offer a monthly variety of pales, stouts, IPA's and so on. These vary in quality and often leave a feeling of inadequacy if you're now a self-proclaimed connoisseur or just an eager-seeker of new and exciting craft beers. Imperial Beer Club will send you limited releases, beers from small batch brewers, beers with much more ingredient complexity and taste.
|Northern Monk Brewing Co. 'Smokin' Bees'|
Strong equals good?
A brewer has to get the balance right in any beer between the sugars from the malts and the hop charges. The brewer's beers that you'll receive if you sign up to Imperial Beer Club are all going to be at least 7% abv. (Eagle-eyed readers will notice one of our reviewed beers below at 6%. Imperial Beer Club decided in February to up the stakes and make the lowest abv of any bottle or can in a box 7%. They also reduced the cost. Win - win!). In the box we received from Imperial Beer Club for this article, a couple of the bottles hit the 11% mark, an imperial stout, and an imperial IPA. None of the drinks were in any way too high in alcohol content. Even the imperial sippers. If a beer drinks like it appears to be much less in abv then the brewer has done the job right. Imperial Beer Club obviously do their homework beforehand to get the finest beer included into your subscription.
|By The Horns 'Bastard Brag'|
Value for money
Just do some simple maths and the answer to that question is a resounding yes. A monthly cost of £42 for ten individual high abv beers delivered with no extra charges direct to your door. At just over £4 per drink this really is good value. Take a more detailed look at the beer they have included in some of their boxes over on their web site, and compare this individual price to the same purchase elsewhere. The cost of these beers through Imperial Beer Club is very favourable indeed.
|Mad Hatter Brew Co. 'Return To Madness'|
No hidden extras
Once you have placed your order, the delivery is quick and you'll be sipping on your imperial beers in no time. Ours took three days to arrive from 'order'. Communication from Imperial Beer Club has been second to none and there are a number of ways to get in touch with them via their web site. You will not be tied into any kind of plan if you decide that Imperial Beer Club isn't for you. You can cancel your subscription at any time. For more information go to their 'faq' page site here.
|Tempest Brewing Co. 'Mexicake'|
A more detailed look into our Imperial Beer Club box
Upon opening I could immediately see from the bottle tops alone, that we had been sent some beer from breweries I already fondly look up to. Siren (from Berkshire) was in there, Mad Hatter (Liverpool), Tempest (Scottish Borders), Pressure Drop (London) and a can from our local brewers Northern Monk (Leeds). Plus a new brewery to me in 'By The Horns Brewing Co.' (London). Here's some more details and thoughts on each beer in our box.
'Brave New World' is a great example of a modern IPA. At 7% abv, some years ago this would be considered a heavy-strength beer but these days this style sits nicely in the drinkability stakes, even sessionable. It has a lovely orangey appearance, beautifully balanced with caramel sweetness offsetting the high bitterness of the hops. Lots of pine aromas coming through as well as those great tropical notes. Delivers all the goodness an IPA should in spades.
If you're going to do a big IPA, do it well and do it right. At 11%, 'Return To Madness' needs careful attention, sipping required! The sweetness oozes from the bottle upon opening as it pours its hazy dark amber liquid into the glass. Incredibly sweet is this imperial IPA, a really chewy feel as the caramels mix with the fruitiness of the Belgian yeast and tropical hops.
Many of these darker beers would happily fit in as a dessert given the wonderful richness and tastes of the brews. This Baltic porter 'Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte' with its powerful sour cherries and chocolate notes would too, although its much lighter in body (and strength) than some other beers fitting for dessert. A very dark brown appearance with a brief tan coloured head, it's easy drinking and the soft fruits mixed with the malty sweetness is superb.
|Siren 'Blacklight Banana'|
If I had to pick a 'best of' from this superior box of phenomenal beers it would surely go to Siren's imperial stout, Blacklight Banana.It is in fact a collaboration beer between Siren and Garage project which was made for last year's Rainbow Project. Rich and indulgent, a hefty mix of grains combine with bourbon barrel-aged coffee, smooth and sweet lactose, along with the caramelised bananas. Stunning.
Their Pompelmocello is an entirely different proposition. It is really light and clean, tart and refreshing. Despite its very pale yellow appearance, lactose again gives it a creamy richness. Grapefruit dominates the palate and the dryness is there immediately, leaving very little aftertaste. A great palate cleanser of a beer, ideal post meal and unusually sour for an IPA.
Bold and strong flavours dominate the Scotch ale of Hercules Hold. Pouring a deep red/brown colour with a short white foamy head, there are strong aromas from the off funky farmhouse traits. Rich fruits are at the fore with the mixture of caramel sweetness alongside a touch of oak from the whisky barrel-ageing process.
The black IPA from By The Horns is possibly my least favourite here. I do like this style of beer, a lot. Bastard Brag however has a lot of sourness going on in it. I enjoy the toasty hoppiness of a black IPA but the sourness here overides everything else, possibly the yeast strain providing the funky flavours maybe? Also lost a lot of this as it was a rather excited gusher.
Second only to Blacklight Banana, this imperial porter made just a few miles from me is utterly terrific. Part of Northern Monk's 'Patrons Projects', the gentle mellowness of this honey and smoked porter is deceiving. Slips down so nicely and you'd never guess it was a 10% beer. Velvety in texture, light smoke and honey in the aroma, with mouthwatering flavours of whisky, smoke, chocolate, honey sweetness and oh, just good good things! The can has unbelievable detailed artwork on a label that you can peel back and discover more about the artist.
'Syd Strong's' (DARK RYE ALE 7.1%)
Another collaborated brew here by Pressure Drop and BrewDog in Camden for the Collab Fest. It's a black IPA that holds some spiciness from the rye malts used alongside the dark roasted varieties. It has a lively mouthfeel as indicated from the lively pour and its fizzy off-white/tanned head. Lots of flavour from the hops, some pine notes, dark fruits and a pleasant bitterness. Easy-drinking again, feeling mellow and easy but still above that 7% abv threshold.
Words - Pete Jackson
Photography - Faith Castle
Imperial Beer Club official
Many thanks to Imperial Beer Club for supplying us with this box to review. All opinions of the contents of the box are our own.