The last few years have seen an explosion in the variety and quality of craft beer available to try – so much so that it’s often hard to pick what to taste next. At stressful times like these, it’s often best to relinquish control and accept whatever life throws at us. That’s precisely what we’ve done here: with two iterations of the craft beer mystery box, one each from Flavourly and Beer Hawk.
The concept is simple – these beer shops have a lot of odd bottles and cans taking up space in their warehouses, and they’re keen to shift them. Perhaps they’re approaching their best before date, perhaps they’re seasonal beers just out of season, or maybe even just stock that was less popular than expected. Those bottles and cans get mixed up, packed up, and shipped off with a hefty discount to cheapskate buyers like me.
Let’s have a look at these two boxes and see which offers the most in terms of value, quality, and variety.
The premise of Flavourly’s deal was that you paid £29.90 to get a random selection of 20 bottles and cans of beer. Postage is free, which means in theory you’re only paying a little under £1.50 per beer.
On a pure volume basis, this is good value. It’s in line with what you’d pay at Lidl/Aldi and a little cheaper than the mainstream supermarket 3 for £5 deals (£1.67 per beer), but with much greater variety.
However, all this relies on there actually being 20 beers in the box. In my case, part of the mystery was trying to figure out what the hell happened to the twentieth beer.
This works out at £1.57 per beer, which is still pretty good value. If I’d paid full price for all these beers it would have worked out at around £44 (£2.32 per beer), even with one missing. That’s a discount of 75p per beer.
What about the variety? There’s a wide range of brewers and styles on offer here, from light craft lager through to a chunky 7% bockbier. There’s a few duplicates: two cans of Green Flash Remix, and a can of Himalayan Red Rye Ale to match two bottles of the same. Three of the cans are Flavourly’s own beer, which tend to run a little cheaper, but they’re firmly in the minority here.
I’m not blown away by this box – potentially because there’s one beer missing! – but it’s good value and contains an interesting variety of beers. This is definitely the sort of thing you’d buy to stock up your beer cupboard, not to bring to a party, but that’s no bad thing.
Beer Hawk’s offering was a bit more compact – generally they offer a mystery case of 15 beers for £30, but when Flavourly’s mystery box deal comes online the Beer Hawk price mysteriously drops by £10.
Unlike Flavourly, the Beer Hawk deal doesn’t include postage, adding £5 back onto the price. This works out at £1.67 per beer – so in line with what you might find at Tesco or Sainsbury’s.
There’s a couple of duplicates here: the High Wire and the Twenty Four Seven at the front, plus two different IPAs from Goose Island. other than that there’s a good mix of brewers across the box, though perhaps a more limited range of styles. There’s no dark beers, for instance.
These beers tend to run a little closer to their best before dates than those from the Flavourly box. The imposing can of DDH IPA goes off later this month, for example, and others need drinking in the next couple of months. That’s not likely to be a problem on this occasion, of course, but worth bearing in mind if you were thinking of buying some back-of-the-fridge beer for emergencies.
Ignoring their ages, estimated open market value for these beers is £40 (£2.67 per beer). The discount works out as £1 per beer.
On balance, I’m crowning Flavourly the winner of this mystery box-off. The £5 price differential gets you another five beers, including a mix stretching from lagers to milk stouts.
Beer Hawk is a worthy contender with some beers from big-name brewers, such as Goose Island and the infamous Delirium Tremens, and a bigger per-beer discount. But that discount is probably slightly inflated given the short life left in some of the beers. At the end of the day, this is an entirely personal decision. I’m leaning towards Flavourly because I love my stouts, but if you’re a diehard IPA and gose fan the Beer Hawk will be more up your street.
As for what I make of the individual beers? You’ll just have to come back later to find out…