Thursday, 26 March 2015

Drinks Delivered: Bottle & Bean's Craft Beer & Coffee Subscription

Subscription services are EVERYWHERE these days aren't they! From recipes and vegetables to grooming, cigars, whiskies and socks. Heck, I even came across a bacon mail order subscription service the other day. Like I need an excuse to eat more bacon! If you missed The Guardian's guide on unlikely subscription services a few weeks ago, it's worth checking out.

Luckily, this week I came across one of my favourites so far, in the form of Bottle & Bean. They do craft beer & speciality coffee, and these are the things I like to start the day and finish the day with - not necessarily in that order though...

Bottle & Bean send you 3 generous bags of freshly roasted coffee beans from artisan roasters and 12 bottles/cans of beer from a different craft brewer each month, but their USP comes from their informative online live tasting sessions that accompany your brews and beans, to talk you through the flavour profiles of each, helping you to understand and talk about the characteristics of each.

I thought this was a grand idea - I always come across people who love different styles of beer, but can't pinpoint what it is they like about it, and they can't talk confidently about the flavours.

I'm the same with coffee - I know I like it, I know I like some roasts better than others, but why? This added value to the Bottle & Bean service is what you pay for... if you join the session, that is.

As a busy, unsociable-hours working person, I was gutted that I couldn't tune in for the sessions (Saturday and Thursday), even though I had tried to make time to do so. If you can't make the live sessions, though, they are available to view afterwards on the Bottle & Bean website with a special access code, so that consumers can tune in at a time suitable to them, relax with a brew and do it at their own pace. Pause, Rewind, Repeat.

Then we come to the goods themselves. I've been meaning to try Anspach & Hobday for quite some time, I love their branding and the revival and modernisation of old recipes, and I'd heard great things. I was not disappointed.

The Table Porter had bags of flavour, really excellent for it's strength, and would be at home alongside a decent steak and friends. The Pale Ale was a hazy straw, with powerful fruity aroma and also rather nice. I'm not a fan of smoked beers generally, so the Smoked Brown was a struggle for me, but not bad. The Stout Porter had loads of ground roast coffee aroma with chocolate & spice, and I enjoyed the strength behind it.

I would have preferred the selection to offer two lighter-style beers, one medium and one dark, rather the 1-1-2 formation, but that's more my personal preference.

Surprisingly, the coffee is where it really shone for me. The three roasts were from Climpsons and Sons, a self-professed pioneer of the 'London Coffee Revolution'. I am incredibly lucky to have a traditional espresso machine to hand in one of my pubs, so was able to grind, press and filter the beans into lovely, crema-rich espresso portions.

I started with the Gisuma, a single-origin bean from Rwanda which had a punchy, fruity-sweet flavour, and a bit of liquorice. Nice!

The second was the Finca Chayote from Costa Rica, with heavily toasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate and some botanically-brewed cola! Very nice!

The third and favourite was The Fields V9 - a complex and earthy espresso, sweet and juicy with loads of apple, tropical fruit & nougat. It had some nice ground spices to it, and I'm not kidding you, roasted parsnips. I had to get a second (and third!) opinion on that comment. I was right. Excellent!

Oh, they also sent me a much appreciated packet of Kent Crisps. Lovely, crunchy, sea salted, hand-cut crisps. They provided excellent absorption for the beers!

If there is one problem that people might have with Bottle & Bean, it's the price - it's not something everyone would necessarily be able to afford every month.

If you want just the coffee, it's a fair £18 - £6 for each 120g bag. For just the beer, its £38! This works out as £3.15 a bottle, which I think is a little overpriced.  For both the coffee and the beer, it's £50, which for many people is a lot of money.

If anything, I think you get too much coffee, and I think the beer could be a little more competitively priced. You'll need to assess how valuable the tasting sessions are to you, of course, and there is something nice about the idea of congregating with strangers to talk and taste stuff. That alone could make the price seem much more reasonable.

I like Bottle & Bean, and the USP behind it. I like that the coffee will last you a month. I think it has it's place in the subscription world, and although far too expensive for me personally as a year-long subscription, I'll be treating myself to the odd month.

EDITED on 31/03/15: Adam had wrongly assumed that if you miss the live sessions, you miss out on the tutored tasting. We edited the post to clarify that these tasting sessions are available as recordings on the Bottle & Bean website after they take place.


  1. Hi Adam, thanks for the write up. Pleased you enjoyed it. Did you realise that you can catch up on the recordings of the live tastings on our website? We know that not everyone will be able to attend the live events. You can watch the recordings using the access code you received in your subscription pack here

    1. Hiya Charlie!
      Oh, I'm so sorry! I'll amend the post with an update now and let people on our social media know. I am so glad the recordings are available after the event - that's so helpful!
      Laura x