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The Best Thing About the Beer of the Month Club is the Box

Caps agleam in mediocrity

My kind and lovely wife decided to do something nice for me this Christmas and signed me up for a Beer of the Month Club.  I was excited when I came home last Friday evening to discover a large box on the kitchen table.  I carefully opened it and pulled off the protective carton to be greeted by twelve shiny bottle tops, six of which said…Saranac.  WTF?!  Saranac warrants Beer of the Month Club status?  There was some other stuff in there as well…

Choc was the saving grace

So to be perfectly clear here, I think Saranac is awful beer.  All of it.  Everything they make.  I know many of you disagreed when I made a similar blanket statement about Flying Dog (which I might have jumped the gun on, BTW), but you can’t argue this one.  Sararnac stinks.  It’s like they make one “base” beer and squeeze in different flavorings to make all the other varieties.  In this case, I had three Black and Tan flavored beers, and three India Pale Ale flavored beers.  I took the high road and tried them with an open mind, and they were awful.  Awful!!

Also in the box were some beers by the Choc Brewing Company in Krebs, Oklahoma.  These were pretty decent, brew pub quality beers.  I received three of their Basement Batch (a scrappy little IPA) and three of their Miner Mishap, a black lager that was light and smoky and decent as well.  Neither were anything to go crazy over, but either could draw me into a restaurant that served them if the mood struck.  Why there weren’t more like these in the box baffles me.

Now I get that the Beer of the Month Club isn’t going to be blasting noob palates with Victory’s Storm King Stout (although they should), but Saranac?  Really?  How can I trust these guys after they deemed Saranac appropriate for a domestic Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club?  With so many wonderful breweries out there to choose from, they give me this? Saranac?

My wife, being the frugal one she is, only signed me up for 3 months of this stuff, so these guys have two more chances to impress me or disappoint me, whatever the case may be.  I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, the good news is that the box this stuff came in is terrific for shipping beers.  I can finally send stuff out to my brother Don in Idaho without worrying about him receiving a soggy box of skunk.

I hope he likes Saranac…

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Categories: Beer

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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20 Comments on “The Best Thing About the Beer of the Month Club is the Box”

  1. January 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more about the Saranac. I have mentioned them several times as “sink worthy.” I know some breweries do their own independent beer of the month clubs…in fact, I think (think being operative) has one.

    As far as boxes go, I love it when my office receives cases of copier paper, because they are perfect for storing homebrew.

    You should direct the beer of the month club to this post. I think the NEED to here this feedback. Couldn’t they have tiered membership? i.e. 1) Neophyte 2) Average enthusiast 3)Full on beer geek

    • Jim
      January 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

      They do have tiered membership. My wife went with Domestic Microbrew, which promised a selection of wonderful American craft beers. We all know there are hundreds that fall into this category (including the fairly decent Choc that was in the box) but Saranac is nowhere close. Why not Wolavers? Not great, but not the sink-worthy swill that they sent.

  2. January 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Finally! People who feel the same was as I do about Saranac.

    -Lost

    • Jim
      January 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

      Funny thing is a few years ago, my wife loved Saranac, especially their caramel porter. Then we got serious about craft beer and discovered what really good beer is. I tried the ones the BOTM Club sent just to fair, as it had been awhile, and -blech!- same old Saranac. In the sink they went.

  3. January 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    How disappointing. I did a beer of the month years ago and used to get great beer, but there are also lots of BOM clubs, if they continue to suck, try a new club.

    the only beer from Saranac that I have enjoyed was the black forest, their schwarzbier….

    • Jim
      January 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

      I’m only signed up for two more months, and after that I’ll be finished. Who needs a beer of the month club when there’s the Liquor Outlet and the Internet?

  4. Don
    January 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    I love the way I get the Saranac! I’ll probably try each one, and give away the other two to some unsuspecting soul that thinks I’m being nice. “Oh…you didn’t like the Saranac…I’m sorry, it must have been a bad batch”, and like magic I’m their favorite consultant! So you send your skunk water Saranac, but just be sure to fill up the box with other more palatable offerings. I’ll be sure to send it back with stuff from here! I’m thinking some Coors light, maybe a bud or two, and I might even be nice and throw in a couple of Corona Long necks, just to show you how high brow I can be! Just Kidding! It looks like it fits 12 ozers so there are some really nice Idaho brews that I can send your way, along with some other regional micros I’m sure you don’t get back east.

    Finally, I’d like to chime in and say that the buyer needs to beware. My sister in law picked up a 10 pack of international brews for my birthday, and there wasn’t one belgium in the bunch, mostly lagers from mexico, one from Jamaica (the ubiquitous Red Stripe), a Saint Pauly Girl, Guinness, and a couple of Asian clear beers as I like to call them because they are so light bodied. Unless you are buying a gift pack from a craft beer store, it probably is crap. I have seen a Chimay Gift set, and while the beer is good it comes with only three beers (11.2 ozers) and two huge Chimay glasses. Not exactly what I call a stellar gift pack.

    Let the buyer beware!

  5. January 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    +100 on the box Jim.

    Its too bad, but that’s the roll of the dice. You win some and you lose some.

    Who knows who makes the choices for the clubs, but I bet its based on bulk purchases and best pricing, not necessarily by beer geeks.

    SOMEBODY must like Saranac. They seem to sell a lot of beer. Of the few I’ve tried, I thought the Caramel Porter was good but that was back when I knew even less about beer. I might not have the same opinion of it today and I wasn’t crazy about the others I’ve had, still, I wouldn’t classify them as sink-worthy.

    I think that you’re probably not the best customer for this sort of thing because you have a better sense of good beer, and for the most part you have pretty good access to good beer. It isn’t like you’re living in the boonies like some people.

    • Jim
      January 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

      The box came with a nice two piece bottle carton that secure holds 12 beers in place, which is huge upgrade over how i’ve shipped in the past.

      And, yes, Saranac sells, but so does Bud. Quantity and quality don’t always go hand-in-hand, even with craft beer. The Club’s site indicates that these are real beer guys and gals, which makes the inclusion of Saranac even more baffling. And the Choc stuff was perfect for a beer club – it was two kinds of decent beer from a brewery I’d never heard of. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but I think noobs and nerds alike would appreciate them, and I can’t get them here.

      So half of it was pretty good, but the Saranac was a total head scratcher.

  6. January 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Hi Jim,

    First off, thanks for contacting us and giving us an opportunity to respond to your post. We always welcome and appreciate the feedback of our members as it helps us keep the club as good as possible, and, in our not-so-humble opinion, the best one available.

    Regarding the Saranac beers: We’re sorry you didn’t care for them, and that you tend to dislike their beers in general. We’ll have to agree to disagree on them being “awful” – our panel thought these brews were pretty nice. I jumped on BeerAdvocate just to see if we were crazy, and it turns out that both beers have B ratings (ok, one is a B-) after over 400 reviews each, including solid B ratings from Jason Alstrom. Individual reviews varied (as they usually do) from really liking them to really hating them, and everything in between.

    So, basically, I don’t think we’re alone in considering these brews to be good. But, you’re not alone in thinking these beers suck. So, alas, that’s kinda the dilemma with all things subjective – disagreement is usually more common than consensus. It’s like Flying Dog – you mentioned you tend not to care for their beers. I’ve heard that before from some other people, while obviously many others really like their stuff. We tend to like them; in fact we featured Tire Bite and Kerberos Tripel (a somewhat odd take on a tripel, but we dug it) last year. That being said, our panel and our president have heard and will consider your feedback. Again, thank you. It is appreciated.

    When we select beers for the club, we do focus heavily on variety. We want to appeal to a broad palate with the Domestic club, and so we attempt to include beers that are approachable, but we don’t hesitate to challenge our members too. You mentioned how you wouldn’t expect us to feature Storm King – don’t underestimate us: we did feature Hop Wallop, for instance, in May of ’07.

    We do have 4 different beer club options. It’s possible you may find the Domestic & International Club more appealing. Many of the international beers we feature are a little more aggressive, like this month’s phenomenal Kulmbacher Eisbock. Or, you might want to check out the Rare Beer Club if you’re interested in some very good, very interesting, and very complex off-the-beaten-path beers (750ml bottles: available in 2-, 4-, and 6-bottle per month options).

    If you want, check our site on the 1st of the month when we post that month’s selections, and give us a call prior to the 3rd if you want to skip the shipment – that’s easy for us to do. Unlike our competitors, we post all of our featured beers on our website, and we keep newsletter archives online of all of our past selections going back to 1995. We’re proud of our products, stand behind them, and invite craft beer geeks everywhere to read all about our previously featured beers. We know beer, we love beer, and we’re trying our damnedest to expose more people to beer – real beer. I think that’s a goal we both will agree upon.

    Cheers!

    Brett Olson
    The Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club
    C&H Clubs, Inc.

    • Jim
      January 20, 2010 at 10:56 pm #

      I’m moving this to it’s own post, as these guys deserve a fair shake (even though they put Saranac in a box and sent it to me!!).

  7. January 21, 2010 at 2:12 am #

    Nice job Brett. That reply is exactly what companies should be doing and we appreciate it.

    • Jim
      January 21, 2010 at 2:18 am #

      Well said, Scott. I was thinking the same thing. These guys get it (beer and the web). But Saranac? Really? (Can’t help myself!)

  8. January 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    My girlfriend got me the gift of the club for Christmas one year. I thought it was pretty damn horrible. The beer selections was terrible. I think I gave it around 6 months before I just quit.

    • Jim
      January 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

      I’m signed up for only three months (it’s a little pricey) and only have two left, so my experience, good or bad, will be rather brief.

      But I will make the most of it and check in on the first of the month to see if I want to skip that shipment. I think that’s a pretty cool feature.

      • Don
        January 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

        It might be worth staying in it a little longer to keep getting the cool boxes though…

  9. February 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Jim,

    We just saw your post about how you were disappointed that our brews were included in your Beer of the Month club and wanted to reach out. First of all, we’re sorry that Saranac beers haven’t been a fit with your taste. However, we’re really proud of our beers and think that they bring a lot to the table in terms of being both distinctive and drinkable. Our beers, including Saranac IPA and Black & Tan, have won multiple awards from around the world and have received accolades and much acclaim from world renowned tasters and beer enthusiasts. Having said that, we’re under no illusion that our beers may not be for everyone but that’s what’s great about craft beer…there are many great beers!

    From your comments, it sounds like you’re looking for something that may be a bit bigger. We hope you’d consider trying our Saranac High Peak Series. Our Imperial IPA has 8.9% ABV, with 85 IBUs, 10 different malts and 10 different hops versus our Saranac IPA which is similar in style to beers like Harpoon and Sierra Nevada. These beers have an alcohol content of roughly 5.6% and 42-45 IBUs.

    With over 30 different kinds of Saranac beers brewed each year, we’re confident that there’s something that you’ll enjoy. If you would like more information on any of our products or if you are around upstate New York and would like to pay a visit to our Brewery, we’d love to personally show you around with an in-depth tour of the Brewery and some more robust Saranac beers, on the house. Of course, our invitation is open to both our fans and and our critics. Just drop us a line at info@saranac.com

    Cheers,
    Nick and Fred Matt

    • February 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

      Hey guys, thanks for the comment. As I like to do when folks make a good case for themselves, I’ve posted your response to its own post so it doesn’t get buried down here. I’d love to try your bigger beers, but I have no idea where to find them. I don’t think I’ve seen them before…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] was a bit of a disaster.  You see, she chose the “Original” option and I was more than a little underwhelmed with what arrived each month.  After sharing my disappointment here on the blog, Brett Olsen from […]

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