My brother-in-law, a recent convert to the craft beer world, received a beer of the month club membership for his birthday. When my sister-in-law asked for my help in choosing the best beer gift we went back and forth over whether a beer of the month subscription was worth it. I suggested other options, like taking him on a tour of local breweries, giving him gift certificate to his local bottle shop, or taking him to a brewery-hosted dinner at a local restaurant. To me these other gifts offered much more control over the quality and types of beer he'd be drinking. I wasn't convinced a beer of the month club would be worth the money. I stand corrected, well sort of. Let me explain.
I've always thought that any of the "of the month clubs," be it a wine of the month club, a cheese of the month club or even a bacon of the month club were a touch on the tacky side, just a way for companies to repackage and dump low quality, under performing stock on an unsuspecting public. These companies are often advertised in a way and in places that make them appear cheap or at the very least seem as if they're jumping on the craft beer bandwagon and pimping it to the Bud, Miller and Coors crowd. My fear with these clubs is one would get stuck with a ton of undrinkable gluten free beer, or some pathetic Guinness wanna be stout, contract brewed by some unknown midwest brewing company.
But my fears were dashed the first time I looked into his fridge and there I spied gems from some quality, out-of-the-way brewers in the craft beer market who don't distribute much on the West Coast. Breweries like Old Dominion from Delaware, Peak Organic Brewing from Maine and Diamond Bear Brewing from Arkansas featured heavily in the last few shipments. To be honest these aren't knock your socks off beers, just good everyday drinking beers that one isn't going to find in their local stores.
Is a beer of the month club worth it? Well, my brother-in-law is quite satisfied and has admitted having difficulty in drinking all the beer that's pouring into his home monthly. As a result, he's happy to share, and others (mostly me) get to benefit from his birthday gift. But I'm still not sure I'm a beer of the month kind of guy. Here in Southern California we're surrounded by great beer, from San Diego to Central California we have access to what I believe are the best breweries in the United States, pumping out truly fantastic and locally available craft beer. In many ways I'd forgo the convenience of beer delivered monthly to my door and take that money to my local brewer, have a pint or two and bring home a growler.
But if you're into having a selection of difficult to find beers delivered straight to your fridge I'd suggest paying a visit to the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club or checking out the beer trading forums at Beer Advocate where members get together either in real life or virtually and trade hard to find beers (a topic for another day).