It used to be that getting a great craft beer meant hopping over to a pub, a store, or making it yourself. But in 2021, one of the most appealing options is having craft beer shipped right to your door, with services like the Craft Beer Club.
Of course, wine and beer delivery aren’t new, and there were plenty of signs that new ways of buying wine and beer were gaining popularity for a while. 2017 was an especially bright year, with online sales spiking over 30 percent.
But 2020 created a systematic shift in the world of craft beer– one which may have lasting effects. With many Americans unable to join friends out for craft beer, the unfortunate result is that sales dipped. According to data from the Brewers Association, overall beer sales were down 3 percent– and craft beer sales were down a substantial 9 percent.
But another interesting datapoint may showcase a way forward for craft beers. While retail sales of beer suffered a decline of 22 percent, this did not apply, obviously, to all beer sales. Rather, we saw a major shift from restaurant and store sales to package deals and online buying– including both delivery services and clubs.
Are clubs the way forward for craft beer? And is the Craft Beer Club worth your money?
In this Craft Beer Club review, I’ll cover everything you need to know about this beer club and provide my honest opinion about the pros and cons of this service.
What’s Considered a Craft Beer?
The term craft beer is casually tossed around, but it’s important to understand what distinguishes a craft beer from a regular beer. That’s especially true if you’re looking into a beer of the month club or beer subscription box.
You can think of craft beer as a smaller batch of beer. The Brewers Association identifies craft beers as coming from a company that produces under 6 million barrels of beer per year. The company should also have no more than a quarter of its brewery owned by a larger company.
Although many larger companies try to blur these lines, true craft beer is mostly from an independent company. The problem is that the term isn’t strictly regulated, and there’s a great deal of confusion surrounding it. Craft breweries are also sometimes called microbreweries. The term craft beer is essentially interchangeable with microbrewed beer.
Why is Craft Beer so Special?
Beyond being produced in smaller batches, craft beer is also prized for its quality and taste. Compared with mass-produced beer, craft beer allows for more attention to detail and quality control. Since everything is made in smaller batches, it’s easier for craft beer brewers to monitor production.
The downside, of course, is that craft beer is substantially more expensive on average. This is because craft beers often use higher quality ingredients, more unique flavors, and simply aren’t as cost-effective to make. They’re also more likely to contain specialty or hand-selected ingredients.
How do I Find the Best Craft Beer Subscription?
The best beer subscription boxes are ones that offer quality beers, coupled with excellent customer service. The worst mistake you can make is to sign up for the first craft beer club you find without question how high of quality their services are.
Beyond the beer itself, you need to carefully consider all the factors that are critical to a beer subscription. Customer policies, including refunds and returns, are essential.
You need to make sure that you understand how shipping works, what happens if a package arrives damaged or never arrives at all, and the process for returns or refunds. At a minimum, there should be a contact email, though I prefer multiple ways to contact a company if at all possible.
Next, check the company’s website. Is it easy to navigate and transparent? While you can get around a poorly designed website, it leaves the first impression as to how much effort the company places into its appearance and updating its services.
Check subscription options. I like to see if there’s any flexibility when it comes to shipment options and frequency. The ability to cancel anytime vs being tied down to an annual contract is also a plus. Of course, pricing should be transparent and within your budget.
Craft Beer Club: Is It Any Good?
Now that we’ve established all of that, I’ll give you my honest review of the Craft Beer Club. The Craft Beer Club is a compelling way to get craft brews shipped to your door– but is it worth your money or just a hassle? Here’s my honest take, and what you should know before signing up.
What is the Craft Beer Club?
The Craft Beer Club supplies American beers from craft breweries and ships them to customers’ homes. The subscription service has been in business for 11 years and is based in Santa Barbara, CA.
Their goal is to bring awareness of craft beers, support breweries, and bring some of the best flavors to Americans. They also run a blog and ship out a monthly newsletter. Also known as the “Original Craft Beer Club,” the company is one of the older beer subscription services– and one of the few of its kind.
How Do Subscriptions Work For the Craft Beer Club?
Subscriptions allow you to choose the number of beers and how often you’ll receive them. Each shipment comes with craft beers and two newsletters, including Micro Brew News. Bonus gifts (a value of around $20) are included in your first shipment. Select from 12 to 24 beers per month, and opt for monthly, every other month, or quarterly shipments.
You also have different options for subscriptions. You can sign up for an automatic renewal (which can be canceled at any time) or up to 12 shipments at a time. Signing up for more shipments ahead of time results in additional bonus gifts, but I recommend starting with one or two shipments to see if you like the beers and the service provided. The discounts, if anything, are fairly minor.
How Much Do Craft Beer Club Subscriptions Cost?
Cost is determined by the number of beers shipped per box. The pricing is neither exceptionally high nor low. See the chart below for prices. These prices reflect the cost per shipment, assuming that you’re signing up for the automatic 1 shipment at a time renewal plan. For more pricing, click here.
|# of Beers/ Shipment||Frequency||Price/ Shipment|
|12||Monthly, Quarterly, or Every Other Month||$44.75|
|24||Monthly, Quarterly, or Every Other Month||$89.50|
Opting for monthly, every other month, or quarterly shipments doesn’t save you money one way or another per shipment, so sign up for what makes sense for you. The main benefit of signing up for months ahead are a few gifts and the convenience. However, the automatic renewal may make sense for some people so you’re not under any obligation– just make sure to remember to cancel when you’re ready.
The great news? All of these prices include free shipping for 48 contiguous states.
How Are Craft Beers Delivered?
Delivery and shipment is a tricky topic, especially right now. If you look on the main website page, a message about possible shipment delays due to COVID-19 shipping impacts is given as a warning to customers. This is not a bad sign per se– if anything, I appreciate their transparency.
All companies have been hit with shipping delays. Expedited shipping isn’t available, and you have to select a date that works for you, as shipping will not hold packages for you.
You can expect to receive your first delivery within 10 to 15 business days, and your credit card will be charged on the first week of the desired month’s start date.
You do need to have someone 21 or older sign for delivery, and shipments only arrive Monday through Friday during normal business hours (8 am to 5 pm). This is understandable, and not too different from many beer and wine subscriptions– but may prove inconvenient for some.
The good news is that they offer up to three delivery tries if you miss the first one, and you can reschedule the delivery date as needed. They also provide tracking information. In the case of a missed delivery, call 1-800-200-2959.
How do you Cancel a Subscription?
You may cancel a subscription at any time. Unlike many competitors, there also isn’t any membership fee. To cancel a subscription, either access your account via the website or call customer service.
Is the Beer Any Good?
While the service standards are reputable, you’re probably wondering if the beer itself is worthwhile. This, of course, is somewhat subjective, but here’s what you can expect to receive with each shipment.
How is Beer Selected?
With a typical subscription, you’ll receive a random selection of beers from 2 craft breweries. These breweries change every month, so you’ll be getting plenty of variety. All beers must come from small producers, as well as “artisan’ and craft brewers. They also must use traditional brewing techniques.
You do, however, have an option to customize your order. You can request to exclude a certain beer style by calling 1-800-200-2959. While not as customizable as some subscriptions, I like this option.
What Types of Beer Does the Craft Beer Club Ship?
Beers average 5 to 7.5 percent alcohol and come from nearly all 48 contiguous the United States. You can expect about any kind of craft beer and also browse recently shipped beers. Examples of recent beers include Smoketown India Pale, Tivoli German Pilsner, Millstream American Pale Wheat Ale, and Susquehanna Orange Ale.
As a craft beer lover, I love all the unique beer offered. By featuring two different breweries per shipment, you get a small sampling of what they do. Of course, the risk could be if you don’t like a brewery at all.
They give a nice selection of beer styles. It’s a great way to discover new beer or get your hands on some rare beer.
Does their Craft Beer Contain Any Allergens?
Craft beers always contain certain allergens. Possible allergens include grains like wheat, sorghum, and malted barley; hops; yeast; colors, flavorings, and some preservatives. Some may also contain fruits, nuts, chocolate, chilies, vanilla, spiced, and coconut. All beers come with full labels– most often cans- but you can also address allergen concerns with the company.
Alternative Beer Subscription:
Love this idea but looking for an alternative? My favorite alternative is Beer Drop. This subscription service starts at just $4 per can, with no commitments required. The service provides ultimate control for you to select your favorite styles, from hoppy to sour to dark. Sign Up Here.
Continue reading our full Beer Drop Review.
Is the Craft Beer Club Reputable?
Of course, while the beer itself and the service checked a lot of my boxes, I wanted to make sure that the company delivered on its promises. The Original Craft Beer Club has been featured through major outlets, including Good Morning America, NBC Today Show, The Colbert Report, and Parade. While not accredited, the Craft Beer Club enjoys an A-plus rating through the Better Business Bureau and does not have formal complaints filed.
While reviews are not as plentiful as some other beer of the month clubs, most consumers were pleased with their experience. The biggest complaints were that breweries occasionally are repeated. One customer had a shipping issue in 2021.
As a whole, the Craft Beer Club enjoys an excellent reputation to match up with its services.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What’s the Difference Between Craft Beer and IPA?
Answer: IPA is a hop-forward style of beer. Many IPAs are craft beers, but not all craft beers are IPA’s. IPA, also known as India Pale Ale, comes in a wide range of flavors and styles, from lower alcohol Session IPA to strong, dry, or double-dry hopped. From crisp to clean to bold, IPA is one of the most popular types of beer.
Question: Is Craft Beer Still Popular?
Answer: Craft beer is still popular amongst some populations, but it’s never reached the height of popularity by the bulk sale of macro beers. The pandemic has caused a dip in beer sales as a whole– but it hit craft beers harder. That likely is also due to breweries having fewer resources– and being hit financially harder as a whole, vs necessarily a declining interest in craft beer.
Question: Why do Millennials Love Craft Beer?
Answer: It’s said that millennials love craft beer, but, in truth, it’s suited for all age groups. The likely reason Millennials have been tied to the identity of craft beer is that it’s seen a rise in their consumption.
Craft beer reflects a general trend towards smaller batches and smaller companies, with an emphasis on expressive ingredients and of higher quality. In wine, small batch options are gaining steam as well. That said, craft beer still lags in popularity behind mass-produced macro beers.
Final Decision: Give it a Try
The Original Craft Beer Club is a solid choice for a subscription. While beer clubs are not for everyone, the Original Craft Beer Club offers fair customer service, a nice variety of beers, and enjoys a great reputation. It stands out from many competitors for these reasons.
It’s not quite as customizable as some may like, of course, and it won’t be the perfect fit for everyone. If you’re unsure, I recommend starting with a shipment and seeing what you think. It’s certainly worth a try if you love unique craft beer and want to discover some new flavors. Sign Up Here.