Why choose a beer from a beer specialist?
It was been a very different Christmas this year without being able to see friends and family but it did provide an unexpected benefit - time! The rush of Christmas, which started early this year, seemed like it would never end, especially with planning for Dry January around the corner. However, from lunchtime on Christmas Eve I did manage to switch off, relax and reflect on the year and as I did this a number of realisations came to me. Sorry it has taken a while to release this but if you’re interested, here goes…
- Alcohol-free beer has improved A LOT this year. Compared with what was available a year ago there have been some big improvements. This time last year, COAST only had two beers and it has since produced 6 more, all better than their first two. Big Drop produced 4 great new beers courtesy of its outstanding Summer Series and Winter Series. Whilst Guinness had a hiccup, Beavertown and Northern Monk had stunning debuts and new brands have emerged such as Lowtide and Mash Gang. Plus, our friends in Europe produced amazing new beers, including Nogne O, Vandestreek and Lervig, with my personal favourite being Mikkeller’s Limbo Series. When we started in June I knew we’d have about 6-months’ worth of good quality beers to go in the subscription boxes but I worried that quality might dip after that. I needn’t have worried - January’s box was arguably our strongest yet and the next two are looking even better!
- Supermarkets have fallen back. Despite this huge improvement, the quality of the range in the supermarkets until January has undoubtedly got worse than it was when we lunched in June. I remember being able to pick up quite a few that tasted good in Tesco that are no longer available. The others have fared little better, preferring to stock big brewery offerings that are taste almost universally disgusting. There has been some improvement in January; time will tell whether it will reverse after Dry January or not. I think we can give the pubs a pass this year but when trade has boomed for supermarkets during lockdown, has it really been that hard to stock something decent?
- Specialism brings quality. When we launched I had three important things in mind. First and foremost I wanted to increase the awareness and availability of the amazing tasting alcohol-free craft beers. It was clear from the research we conducted that the problem wasn’t product quality, but that people hadn’t heard of the beers that taste the best, nor could they get hold of them. A couple of alcohol-free beer providers existed but they neither focussed solely on beer, nor it seemed, quality of product. My own experiences with them were mixed, with quite a few beers tasting great but others I had to pour down the sink. It was very hit and miss. Their boasts were all about “the biggest range” but to my mind that just meant stocking all the bad stuff even if some did taste great and it included stocking every one of a breweries range, regardless of quality. Added to the fact that they covered all styles of drink: beer, cider, wine, spirits etc and you could see why the hit and miss existed. As a consumer I really wanted somewhere that specialised in beer rather than being a generalist of all types of drinks. I therefore wanted Sobersauce to have a truly great range - big enough to ensure sufficient variety for all styles, but really focussed on taste and quality. Stocking a brewery’s good beers, but not those we didn’t like and all the while eschewing approaches from better funded breweries, with keen pricing, to stock beer that we just didn’t like drinking.
So, the big question is, how have we fared against our plan and our promise? I’m really pleased with our range and I think it is the best out there, but how do you compare one range to another? The answer is Untappd, the beer rating app and website. Thanks to thousands of customer reviews, 95% of the beers out there have been reviewed so you can take every provider’s range and compare the average of all the beers. I had a look at the 8 largest alcohol-free generalists, a couple of supermarkets and some online full-strength beer providers who stocked some alcohol-free beers too.
I’m delighted to say that Sobersauce (3.10) has come out WAY AHEAD of any other provider. Some really interesting findings from the data include:
- One of the bigger alcohol-free generalists often claims to have both the biggest AND best quality range. In fact, not only did they have the LOWEST average quality of any of the alcohol-free generalists, it was nowhere near the biggest range either 🤔. In fact, the quality level was such that it was nearer to TESCO’s range (the worst we found) than Sobersauce’s. When you stock Stella and Doom Bar that’s no surprise. The future is not bright, the future is not orange.
- It’s really hard to keep quality levels up as your range increases. Some of the full strength beer specialists with less than 20 alcohol-free beers had average quality levels similar to the alcohol-free generalists. Like Sobersauce, some of these guys are a little more choosy about their beers, whilst some aren’t. Getting a large range AND a high average quality is really hard, which is why so few achieve it.
- The more specialised a provider is, the better the product quality. As you’d expect, the worst ranges came from the supermarkets. After that, online beer providers and alcohol-free generalists were broadly on a par in terms of quality, with the alcohol-free generalists having much bigger ranges. Yet these were still a long way below ours.
The lesson is clear. If, like us, taste is the most important factor to you when choosing beer, then choose a beer provider that focusses on beer. If you want the best tasting alcohol-free beer then choose a provider that focusses on alcohol free beer. As the UK’s largest alcohol-free beer specialist, Sobersauce not only has more than 80 alcohol-free craft beers, it has the best-tasting range in the UK. You can trust that a subscription for the latest beers will offer superb quality, and as the only provider to allow you to fully customise your subscription, ultra convenience too.