Bermondsey craft brewery Brew by Numbers is offering a mixed six beer case for £30 including next-day UK delivery. What are those beers like, and is this deal worth it? I’ve selflessly tasted one of their six-beer selections to help you decide.
The precise beers included in the box change from week to week, so the selection on sale as you read this may differ. I’m hoping to add to this review as I go back for more to help build a more complete view.
04: Blueberry & Lime Imperial Berliner Weisse
I’m slightly concerned picking up this beer. The dark blue and neon green lettering summons thoughts of warning signs or nuclear cores shining through smoke. More importantly, beneath all that is a notice announcing this beer is 9.0% ABV. Scary stuff.
All my trepidation disappears as I pour, however. It’s a delicious, dark garnet; inky like the sky before dawn and purple like a fine red wine. The aroma is a delightful mix of tangy and deep. The bright lime notes hang over dark, ruddy blueberry undertones.
The flavour brings the same but more so. The lime brightness hits first: light but not sour. It rapidly transforms into a dark, red fruit salad, dominated by blueberry but mixed with raspberry and blackberry. The transition continues, darkening further into an almost tannic dryness.
Sourness arrives late on the finish, but lingers. It’s a few minutes since my last sip as I write this and the flavour’s still there, sitting on the back of my tongue and pulling me back for the next sip. This is a seriously good beer.
10: Espresso Martini Coffee Porter
Given that we’re in lockdown, I’ve been mixing the occasional espresso martini for brunch as an act of self-care. While I’m still some way off the skill of a professional bartender, at least I have a decent idea of what to expect from this kind of cocktail.
The colour has us off to a good start: it’s a dark, deep brown with a rich and creamy tan head. The aroma continues to live up to expectations, leading with coffee grounds (sourced from Climpson & Sons, who also provided the coffee in Nightowls) and following up with vanilla and cream notes.
It’s when the beer hits the palate that we start to deviate from cocktail territory. There’s an intense hoppy bitterness well in excess of anything you’d find in an espresso, while the coffee brings a hint of sourness. The vanilla helps to balance this a little, but more than anything it adds to the cacophony of flavours in this tiny, dark beer.
This porter does, in fact, contain coffee, so one best enjoyed early on in the afternoon (or whenever you have brunch). Just don’t expect a gentle awakening.
19: Blackberry & Raspberry Imperial Gose
This is the first of two Number 19s from this box, both Imperial Goses (or is it Geese?). Here we have the more traditional of the two, blackberry and raspberry.
It’s a lively boi. 19 pours ruby and clear with tonnes of effervescent bubbles throughout and masses of candy floss, loose head. The aroma starts with blackberry tartness. I’m not sure it’s possible to smell salt, but it feels like I’m picking it up here as the smell mellows out and the beer warms slightly.
On the palate it starts tart and fresh, then the bubbles dancing on the tongue. Light and sour raspberry transitions into dark and rich blackberry, all undercut with briny saltiness. The milk sugar keeps it from getting too dark and helps create a smooth, satisfying mouthfeel. Saltiness continues on until the finish, leaving me craving more.
This is a very strong beer for me, one of the best goses I’ve tried. My partner was less convinced: while the colour is, as she puts it, fabulous and the balance of sweet and tangy flavours is very moreish, it’s more bitter than she’d ideally like.
19: Dragon Fruit & Pink Guava Gose
Next we have our second Number 19. This time the flavours are a little more exotic: dragon fruit and pink guava.
A disclaimer here: I have never eaten a dragon fruit that actually tasted of anything. They look very pretty and make great fodder for Instagram. If you’re splitting hairs you could argue the texture is a selling point too, with the creamy flesh and crunchy seeds. But neither of these aspects make it into a beer.
The beer looks gorgeous. It’s creamy and pinky orange, like an overpriced cocktail from an exclusive resort bar. The aroma is delicate and tropical. Guava hits first, but once again I’m picking up that briny, salty note. On the tongue it’s well balanced, with an initial flicker of sourness balanced with wheaty creaminess. It reads like a tropical fruit milkshake. Guava leads, but it’s backed up with pear and kiwi. Wheat coats the tongue leaving a long, sticky finish.
This is a seriously fun drink. It’s quaffable, a dangerous quality for something clocking in at 7% ABV. And, to coin a phrase, the sticky finish leaves me wanting more. But it lacks the balance of rich, tart, fresh flavours in the blackberry and raspberry Number 19. I’d happily drink both again, but I know which one would have me coming back for a third helping.
21: Citra Pale Ale
Arguably number 21 is the only ‘normal’ beer of the pack, rubbing shoulders with imperial stouts, gose, and Berliner Weissen. In a way, it almost comes as a relief moving onto this Citra Pale Ale.
In my efforts to film myself pouring I manage to make a hash of things, spilling the first precious drops of beer onto my artfully arranged backdrop. Fortunately the rest of the can makes it into the glass, pouring a pale and hazy yellow. The aroma is fresh and, as you would expect given the name and sole hop addition, citrussy: a mix of lemon and orange zest.
On the palate it’s deceptively light, particularly given it clocks in at 5.2% ABV. I pick up flavours of pineapple, honeydew melon, passion fruit and the scantest hint of banana. It dries out towards the finish, almost like the drier, bitter taste as you crunch passion fruit seeds, with that note passionately clinging on the longest.
Of all the beers in this selection box, this Citra Pale Ale is the one I could most easily see myself drinking all night. It’s flavoursome but not so much that it overpowers, light enough to guzzle but intriguing enough to savour.
64: Chocolate & Coconut Imperial Stout
I’ve saved this one as a digestif after a hearty dinner. My partner is rounding things off with chocolate and coconut mousse. I feel like I’m not too far off with this beer.
Plus, the can label is adorable. It even looks like coconut! Brilliant.
The body is inky black with a dark, fairly loose toffee head. Desiccated coconut hits hard on the nose, followed up with a more delicate, sweet liqueur note: amaretto, perhaps. It’s thick but not syrupy, sweet but not sickly. Boozy dark malt is the first to arrive on the palate, a mix of dark, roasty coffee notes and umami soy sauce. But as the initial alcohol assault recedes the coconut sweetness and cacao richness take its place. Leads into sherry and dried fruit on the finish.
This is not a subtle beer. It’s big and powerful, rich and strong, much like how I used to describe myself on online dating profiles. Not for the faint-hearted, but a welcome reward for the discerning.
Value for money?
In total, this box gives you six cans of beer for £30, or £5 per can. However, doing some quick research into delivery costs, a decent chunk of this cost appears to be postage: if we take off a conservative £6 for delivery, that brings us to £4 per beer. That’s somewhat higher than what you’d pay per beer in a mystery box from online retailers such as Beer Hawk or Flavourly. You’re also only getting beers from one brewery, so if you’re looking to try out a range of new brewers this may not be the best option.
For that higher price, you get a selection of six diverse, high quality beers. Many are high ABV, ranging up to 10.0% for the imperial stout and 9.0% for the Berliner weisse. If you compare this to the quality and freshness of the beers you find in some of the larger, cheaper mystery boxes, Bring the Brewery Home is miles ahead.
If you’re happy to do a deep dive on a single high-quality London brewery, I’d heartily recommend this box. And with so many small businesses struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus lockdown, there’s never been a better time to give these breweries your support.