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Beer subscriptions are all about surprising discoveries. And, if the curators of the clubs are delivering predictable craft brews that fail to surprise their members...well, they’re doing it wrong.
But that’s far from the only priority when it comes to a quality beer subscription; value, consistency, customer service, and education also rank highly. Read on for the best beer subscription boxes that nail each of these qualifications.
Why We Chose It: Beer of the Month Club has been in operation since the early 1990s and uses the most rigorous tasting panels of anyone.
What We Like
Strong education program
Range of subscription options
Rigorous taste-testing process
Lots of customization flexibility
Superb newsletter tasting notes
What We Don’t Like
The wealth of customization choices can be overwhelming
The depth of selection at Beer of the Month Club is a clear strength: Members can handpick their ideal thematic bundle like the increasingly popular IPA-centric Hop Heads Beer Club, the International Beer Club, and The U.S. Microbrewed Beer Club, or mix and match. Gift-givers who might not know what their recipient prefers can dial in a sequence that rotates through each club in consecutive months. The number of bottles can be scaled and selections can be swapped out for something else in the club’s inventory at any time. Clubs start at $31.95 (plus shipping) and cover at least two breweries and multiple styles with each box.
Other strengths include award-winning exclusives with hand-picked brewery partners like Jolly Pumpkin and Lost Abbey that are unavailable elsewhere; the industry’s strongest newsletters, which always leave the reader enlightened; and the Rare Beer Club option ($37.95), which beer cicerone and longtime beverage journalist Ethan Fixell calls the “crown jewel of the brand.”
“It offers you beers that, as a geeky beer nerd, I genuinely want to drink, a real opportunity to test what collectors would trade for,” he says. “It gets me excited about beer again. If I’m going to pay all that money to have it shipped and curated, I want it to be the best of the best.”
Another nice feature: An email precedes each shipment, allowing members to add, replace, reject, or skip any of the beers offered, a policy that's unique among monthly beer clubs.
Why We Chose It: Craft Beer Kings (CBK) can claim the most robust roster of fruited sours, IPAs, and hazy IPAs, and there are a lot of other rock-star qualities that also stand out.
What We Like
Wide range of offerings
Strong gift box game
Great bottle shop
??What We Don’t Like
Does not ship everywhere
Craft Beer Kings presents 11 different subscriptions, with intriguing plays like Sour and Stout, California Beers, and Barrel-Aged. Most clubs run $59.99 per month and include six, 16-ounce cans and shipping. Its Hazy IPAs subscription proves most popular thanks to constantly rotating new India pale ales that are selectively curated from small independent craft breweries.
CBK’s brick-and-mortar locations in the greater Los Angeles area have been a hit since the early 1990s and helped lay the foundation for a booming club and online business with a loaded inventory of stylish ales, Belgians, darks, barleywines, and more. A slick smartphone app further streamlines deliveries for its live-updated bottle shop. The company is slated to make its own beers via Craft Beer Kings Brewing starting in 2021.
“We’ve been in the beer game for 25-plus years so we have the relationships with brewers, and have tracked craft beer from the start,” co-founder Moe Salamh says. “We only work with breweries that are our favorites. We’re very picky [about] who we bring in our portfolio. Hence the name Craft Beer Kings.”
Cult brewery hits like Tripping Animals, Jay Wakefield, and Other Half rank among the company's 2020 additions to its lineup of brewers. Meanwhile, heady collaborations draw attention but also generate quality beers: CBK has teamed up with a bunch of legendary bands like AC/DC, Sublime, and Pennywise and dozens of leading craft brewers to do enticing one-offs.
“These aren’t things you can find at everyday bottle shops,” Salamh says.
Why We Chose It: The Original Craft Beer Club (OCBC) brings a complete package of smart elements and thrives on close relationships with boutique producers countrywide.
What We Like
Attention to detail
Focus on small breweries
??What We Don’t Like
Risk of receiving unpreferred styles
The Original Craft Beer Club has a number of features that earn it a spot on our list, including a reasonable price ($44.75 per month with free shipping), delivery flexibility (monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly), and bonuses for longer-duration orders (bottle openers, beer koozies, and discounts). The company's partnership with esteemed online beverage publication The Beer Connoisseur lends credibility and grants all members a year subscription to it.
One real differentiator is regional and stylistic diversity: Shipments feature two small-batch breweries from different geographical corners of the United States demonstrating four beer styles, and by policy breweries can’t reappear in a box for at least two years. “It gives people a diverse way of tasting beers from across the country,” spokesperson Kelsey Chesterfield says. “These are beers people can’t find in their local stores unless they’re living in the same place as the brewery.”
The club’s sourcing team works directly with small-production breweries to emphasize their flagship brews, customer favorites, and award-winners. Two newsletters pair with each box, sharing recipes, beer trivia, brewery background, and tasting notes.
Why We Chose It: Great Clubs has a time-tested model with solid value and an impressive track record.
What We Like
Four varieties in each box
??What We Don’t Like
Beer blog isn’t updated
Clubs of America has been guaranteeing satisfaction for a quarter-century, which means it has shipped millions of packages. Its Beer of the Month Club is one of the most popular among its many subscriptions, which cover everything from flowers to pizza to coffee.
Beer members receive a dozen rare craft beers with four different varieties in each installment and styles such as ales, IPAs, stouts, lagers, and bocks.
The Beer Expeditions monthly newsletter shares insight on each shipment's goodies, tasting tips, and more. Shipping is included in the price, which goes down the more months you sign up for, and members can cancel at any point.
A focus on microbrewed beer was ahead of its time when the company started its beer subscription and remains the main draw. “These are specialty beers with more flavor than the mass-produced alternative,” The Great Clubs' beer dossier reads, “They are made in very small quantities and only available in the local town where they are brewed. They are all-natural and contain no additives or preservatives.”
The Original Craft Beer Club and Craft Beer Kings contended for Best Overall for their exacting curating, impressive discoveries, and youthful verve. OCBC is best suited for prospective members and gift-givers who are more into American microbrews; CBK is ideal for beer lovers who lean super trendy and wildly creative. But the pedigree, international depth, range of options, and dedication to education gave Beer of the Month the edge. Its systematic customization alerts and rigorous tasting panel program sealed the deal.
Beer is the answer, as the saying goes, no matter the question. More strictly speaking, beer is typically brewed from cereal grains, usually malted barley, that is then flavored with hops.
What Does a Beer Subscription Box Include?
Clubs often include at least two breweries’ beers and a collection of online bottle shop access, tasting notes, background, and bonuses in each box. Schedules and duration vary.
How Much Does a Beer Subscription Box Cost?
The options surveyed for this piece start at $29.99 per month and run up to $150.
How We Chose the Best Beer Subscription Boxes
We researched clubs and spoke to brand-affiliated and independent experts on what they offer to select our favorites. Considerations included diversity of offerings, curating philosophies, cost (and value), frequency, accompanying literature, and popularity. Education was also important, and figures in prominently with each—particularly our best overall pick of Beer of the Month Club, which also features outstanding customer service and relentless taste evaluations.