beer reviews bottled beer

Getting to Know All About You

Adnam's Jack Brand Innovation IPA.

In the last year or two, we’ve started doing something quite new for us: ordering entire cases of the same beer.

Many beers have a superficial glamour on first tasting, or if enjoyed only occasionally, but when you have twelve, eighteen or twenty-four bottles to drink, you get beyond all that. If the tenth bottle tastes as good as the first, then you know you’ve got a keeper.

We were, for example, gushingly impressed with Adnams’ Jack Brand Innovation, a 6.7% American-inspired India Pale Ale, when we first tried it: a sweet orange liqueur, caramel toffee, ripe mango character made it seem bright and exciting. As we near the end of the case, however, that enthusiasm has waned. It’s still a perfectly decent beer, but one-dimensional and a little sickly, like a big bag of Haribo.

Twenty-four cans of the same brewery’s Ghost Ship, however, proved to be an excellent investment. Pilsner-pale, with a hard bitterness and big herbal hop aroma, it gave us much of what we enjoy in Brewdog Punk IPA but at 4.5% ABV instead of 5.9% — much better for school nights and long sessions. It’s also great value, even in dinky little 440ml cans, and perfect for throwing into rucksacks and handbags for parties and train journeys.

Two other cases we ordered, we must confess, mostly so that we could reuse the easy-to-clean bottles for home brewing.

Hopf Helle Weisse (5.3%) is as pale as Erdinger but tastes much better, with a dab of acid making it a full fruit salad (pineapple and pear) rather than a muddy, one-trick banana Angel Delight. We drank the last bottle this week and would happily buy another case.

Finally, there were 20 bottles of Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier (4.3%) — not actually made with smoked malt but in a thoroughly smoked Bamberg brewery, which adds a subtle autumnal bonfire aroma. Even though they’d travelled a way, and were pretty near bang on their best before, that extra layer of flavour from the smoke made them taste fresh (interesting) even if they weren’t fresh (in peak condition). Better than bottled Pilsner Urquell from Tesco? Maybe.

Does anyone have any suggestions for beers that are good value by the case and will retain their appeal over the course of a long-term relationship?

24 X 440ml cans Ghost Ship cost us £26.99; 12 x 330ml bottles of Adnams’ Jack Brand Innovation cost £18.99; delivery was free through their online store. We ordered the Hopf and Schlenkerla Helles through but have misplaced the receipt; they’re currently £2.23 and £2.85 a bottle with a case discount, plus delivery, which sounds about right.

bottled beer opinion

A long term relationship

Beer writers often say that a beer is “worth buying by the case” (Tim Webb and Joris Pattyn, we’re looking at you) but, being easily-distracted dilettante bloggers whose favourite beer is always the next one, we’ve tended to mix-and-match, trying to cover as much ground as possible.

Fuller’s Past Masters XX Strong, however, was only available by the case, so we bit the bullet and did it.

A whole box of the same beer? What if, once we tried it, we found ourselves lumbered with eleven bottles we don’t want to drink?

As it happened, although we liked it from the off, we only became more impressed as the beer matured. If we’d based our view on bottle number one, we might have stuck with our cautious thumbs-up and the view that Fuller’s 1845 is a better beer.

A whole case of beer takes the pressure off a little. It gives you the chance to just drink without over-thinking; to see a beer from different angles, at different times; to really get to know it. It also helps avoid Open It syndrome — a cupboard full of beers too precious to drink which are slowly going stale — because, hey, there’s a whole case, so why not have another?

This post is based on a lie: we’ve bought cases of beer for parties loads of times, but as we never got to touch any of that beer, and were just left with empty bottles and boxes, they don’t count.