Buying a Box of Beer on Blind Faith

I came across something interesting while perusing the local bottle shop on my lunch hour – a box containing an unknown assortment of craft beers. All it said on the side was “Craft Beer Variety Pack” with no description of what may lie within. A craft beer mystery pack, hmmm?  Intriguing…

I took a peek into one of the handhold cutouts and could make out the top ring of what looked like a tallboy can of Deviant Dales.  I figured if there’s a DD in there, the rest of the beers can’t be half bad, and at $14.99 for 12 beers, it was a craft brew bargain.  Plus, I recalled hearing that the box was put together by Hunterdon, Northern New Jersey’s leading craft beer distributor, and they know their stuff.  So I bought a box and hoped for the best.

I haven’t been this excited about a beer purchase in a long time.  What treasures were held within this cardboard cube?  Would it be a bunch of mid-line Saranac stuff? Something more exotic? Shiner Bock?

I really had no idea, because each box is a collection of beers brought together by bad luck.  The Craft Beer Variety Pack is a way for Hunterdon to sell the bottles that survive when part of a case or a six pack is lost to breakage.  The castaways are collected and combined into these mixed boxes, and as my kids say, “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

Here’s what I got:

Sorry for the blur – people have taken clearer pictures of Sasquatch!

All told I am very pleased with this haul, especially at $14.99 for the lot.  This is a mix of beers I like (Deviant Dales, which has gotten better lately, Lagunitas Censored, Smutty Brown Dog, Weyerbacher Merry Monks) and beers that I’ve been interested in trying, but never pulled the trigger on.  These include Yard’s Tavern Ale, Troegs DreamWeaver (I always hesitate when it comes to wheat), and in particular, Session Black Ale, which was really, really enjoyable.

The rest is a mixed bag, but there are no obvious stinkers here, although a few of these might be saved for non-beer-geek company.  Still a raging value for fifteen bucks.

So this time it worked out – we’ll see what happens next time I buy a box on blind faith…




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

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33 Comments on “Buying a Box of Beer on Blind Faith”

  1. Greg H
    September 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I did this once before and they were mostly old beers, at least the ones I could read the dates on. I’m geting leery of these types of mixpacks for this very reason.

    I think some of these packs are the distributors getting rid of old stock, not just stock that has been partially damaged as you mentioned. We have one local store here that keeps a very large selection of craft beers in a room that gets very hot in the summer and many beers get direct sunlight for hours at a time. I’m always careful of what I buy and where on the floor it is. Another store puts old stock from the previous year out as the season changes. I think some stores are bringing in so many different beers that they can’t seel them all, hence the old stock, especially IPAs.

    It would be interesting to hear the results of how they taste.

    • September 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      I’ve had about half of them, and so far they’ve all been in good shape. Hunterdon is pretty reputable, and the boxes are a new thing, so for now it’s a good deal. In a few months it might be hard to tell which are new and which have been sitting around the beer store for awhile…

  2. Dianne Budde
    September 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    I think you picked the “right” liquor store. If it would of been big box store, they would have pushed off more dogs…Many folks working in liq/beer stores still don’t even understand craft brews. Your lucky if you can find some of the beers you want, let alone knowledge by staff. I believe this is getting better. Sometimes when I peruse the mix & Match 6pk sections, they are almost all outdated or just the run-of-the mill brews. I definitely think that store is a step beyond, so you dodged the bullet! I would have been scared.
    Dianne Budde

    • September 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      I don’t tink I would’ve pulled the trigger on it if not for the fact that I trust Hunterdon, the company that packed the box. They’re good folks who know their stuff, so I gambled on the fact that the box would be worth the risk (and won!).

  3. September 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Now that’s an interesting idea! I’d like to try it, too, if I came across such an offer. Just now, I’m doing my own sampling.

    • September 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      It’s a good way to get new beers into your house, that’s for sure. I fixed your link above, BTW…

      • September 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

        Hi Jim,
        Thx for fixing the link.
        Best regards from southern TX,

  4. September 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Damn Jim, that’s a pretty decent haul for the price. The last “Closed Box” mixed 12 that I got was exactly as you described, a bunch of Saranac-esque brews with the occasional local amber/blonde/pale something-or-other thrown in to round out the selection. At least they were all fresh. I think you did pretty well for yourself considering how poorly it could have gone.

    • September 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      I agree – the reason I’m posting about it is because it actually didn’t suck – that’s newsworthy to me!

  5. Greg H
    September 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Re-reading the original post, I like this line “a few of these might be saved for non-beer-geek company”. I do the same thing when I have a beer that isn’t really to my liking. LOL

    • September 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      Sometimes I have to be in just the right mood for more gentle fare, but that’s the sweet spot for non-beer-geeks, so whoever gets it first wins!

  6. September 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Session Black is the $2 go-to at a local overpriced pub.

    • September 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

      The Breckenridge 471 is quite good, also!

      • September 4, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

        Agreed. Nearly all of Breck’s 471 series is a good buy. Not earthshaking, but good nonetheless.

        • September 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

          I’ve always found their stuff “pretty good” but nothing earth shattering. Then again, I’ve only had a handful of their beers, so it’s a limited sample. I’ll be able to add another Breck notch on my belt with this one I guess.

    • September 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      I really enjoyed the Session Black, like ALOT. I’m going to have to pick some up and see if it was a fling or more of a longterm f-buddy type deal.

  7. John
    September 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    My former favorite bar (no longer there) called Mike’s Ale House used to have Blind Craft Brew draw on Sundays for $2. Always stuff he didn’t normally carry. Just filled a big cooler with beeer and ice. He also had a $2 Italian Beef with Tater tots as well. Being he was a craft beer guy the choices were always different and unique and the beefs were awesome. I miss that bar

    • September 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      I miss that bar too and I’ve never been!

    • September 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

      Maybe it was all the cheap beef and beer they were pumping out…

    • September 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      Groannnn…you had to say Italian Beef didn’t you? I need my fix and Chicago is 80 miles away.

      • September 5, 2012 at 9:01 am #

        That was supposed to say 800 miles away.

    • Aldo
      September 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      That is the type of bar I want to own!

  8. Brett
    September 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Getting a can of DD in a $15 12-pack is like getting a hologram card in a pack of Topps.

    Throw in the Sixpoint, the Breckenridge and the Lagunitas and you got the deal of the week right there. Wish there was a shop near me in CT that did this, but then again it’d probably cost $25 up here.

    • September 4, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      That’s an awesome analogy!

  9. Mark S.
    September 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I’ve picked up a few of these from the local northern Hunterdon beer/wine/liquor stores around me. I’ve found them always to be a good value. They always have a good range of “good” to “holy crap!” in the box. My most recent purchase had a mix of everything from Saranac and Sam Adams, Breckenridge, Sly Fox, Six Poiint, Lagunitas, and Founders, and in a range of beer styles from old favorites (porters, stouts) to ones that I normally would not consider purchasing (wheats, double IPAs). A nice way to expand one’s horizons.

    Any reason you don’t mention the name of the “local bottle shop”?


    • September 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

      I’ll have to keep buying them and see what I get – I’m not kidding when I say it’s exciting. It is. Like being a kid. Funny what makes us happy, huh?

      I didn’t mention the shop because I don’t know the name. It’s a little place that always has a minimal selection near work, that’s next to a deli I grab lunch at. I sometimes pop in, hoping they accidentally got four cases of Kentucky Breakfast Stout or something else they don’t know is special. You know, the Dusenberg in the barn.

  10. September 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    I get one of these from my son-in-law every Xmas. Quality varies but as you said you get to try a lot of new beers.

    • September 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      It’s like the sausage sampler from the mall, only beerier!

  11. Bob
    September 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    The Breckenridge double IPA is a favorite of mine!

  12. September 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    This almost makes me want to move to New Jersey… Almost. 😉

  13. September 4, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Nice pick up! There are some decent beers in there, although I don’t know them all. I would crack that Breckenridge 471 IPA really soon though; that beer is amazing and really, really great on a summer day, but the hops tend to fade kinda fast on that one.

  14. beerbecue
    September 4, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    You’re nothin’ but a Deviant Dale’s flip-flopper!


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