Mystery Beer Box – Beer52

Having gorged myself on beers from Flavourly and Beer Hawk, now I’ve signed myself up for yet another beer subscription service. Beer52 styles itself as a craft beer club, delivering a curated selection of beers up to once a month.

The basic package costs £24 and gets you eight beers (to date, I’ve exclusively had 330ml cans or bottles), a snack, and a magazine covering whatever theme links the beers this month. There’s an option to upgrade to a bumper-sized 10-pack for an additional £5, bringing the total to £29. By default you get a box once a month, but if that’s a bit much you can go for once every two or three months instead.

The obvious question, then, is what does Beer52 give you for that £24/£29?

Not included in the value for money analysis: beer mat that looks like a pizza

As promised, my £29 got me 10 beers, a magazine, and snack. Ignoring the extras for now (we’ll come back to them), and for those of you averse to mental maths, that works out as £2.90 a beer. Not spectacularly cheap, but not extortionate either. At least the two extra beers brings the average down a little – from £3 a beer for the 8-beer pack.

What about the selection? At first I’m excited to try these five different beers from Harpoon, until I realise that UFO is also produced by Harpoon. And Harpoon bought Clown Shoes in 2017. That’s 90% of this month’s box from one brewery.

It makes Paradise’s presence at the end of the row even more strange. Harpoon is hardly a small brewery – alongside the gargantuan Samuel Adams, they’re one of the stalwarts of Boston’s craft beer scene. They could easily have included another of their line in the box. Chucking in a Belgian NEIPA to make up the numbers feels a bit odd.

Following some cursory research and some assumptions to fill in the gaps, my estimate for the value of the beer in this box is £29.90: just 90p more than what I paid.

There are some pros to this service, of course. When not serving up a single brewer’s selection, Beer52 offers a curated list of beers with a common theme, the vast majority of which I’d have been highly unlikely to try before. Delivery is free, which is always a nice touch. And, unlike Beer Hawk and Flavourly’s mystery boxes, none of the beers here are short-dated.

That’s a telling comparison, though. Like other beer suppliers, you’re buying your beers blind, relying on them to choose something good on your behalf. But in exchange for relinquishing that control, you’re not getting that much more beer for your money. Having a little longer until each beer’s best before date is nice, but not relevant when you know there’s another box to drink your way through next month.

“Excuse me, distressingly handsome beer blogger,” I hear you ask, “but what about the magazine and the snack?”

It’s true, there’s more than just beer in this box. Strictly, I should have included the Brave roasted peas (around £1, depending on where you shop) and the magazine in the value for money analysis. That’s a point I’ll concede for the peas, however meagre a 20g portion might be. But I won’t back down on the optimistically valued £4.99 magazine.

It’s not that the magazine is bad, by any means. I spent a cursory five minutes flicking through Ferment, and I might take another look when I get back to drinking the beers. Claiming it’s worth a fiver, however, is a bit cheeky. It feels like a ploy to boost the box’s face value.

Having said all that: would I recommend a Beer 52 subscription? I’m going with a qualified yes. If you’re adventurous, you know your breweries, and you don’t mind doing your research before buying your bottles, you’re better off on your own. But if you’re looking for a variety of new and interesting beers to land on your doorstep each month, Beer 52 will certainly do that.

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