And now for something completely different. For this review, I am stepping out of character, and straight out of my comfort zone – this is because Thursday evening whipped me up and plonked me firmly down in the universe of BEER. I wouldn’t call myself an expert in wine, but I am certainly an affiliate of the school. Luckily, this was an evening designed to prove to people like me that beer could be as ‘diverse and exciting’ as wine can. I had no complaints about trying to be persuaded of this on a Thursday evening, especially in the beautiful location of The Shed in Notting Hill.
First I should explain BeerBods as a concept and a company. The brand was started by entrepreneur Matt (later joined by Gordon) only two years ago, with the aim of getting the general public to step outside the cardboard concepts of Carlsberg and Fosters as their only options for beer guzzling. After paying a sum every 3 months, members are sent a new beer to try every week which they then discuss at a set time using #BeerBods on Twitter. It’s the equivalent of Yorkshire men in flat caps with a pint of stout for the digital age. Something like that.
Gordon and Matt, along with their delightful PRs, were there to greet us upon arrival with a light larger and a deep fried oyster. The Shed, being the dream restaurant that they are, had designed a menu around each beer we were going to taste – that’s a small plate with each of the eight beverages the boys had carted with them from Worcestershire. Not only that, we learned their business was originally created and run from a shed; not a shiny, west London dining kind of shed, but the link was there.
There were about 12 of us attending the evening, a few beer expert journalists along with a collection of random types such as myself. One of the aims the business partners admitted to was to increase the interest that women hold in beer. At the moment 5% of their customer base is female, and BeerBods seem genuinely excited by the prospect of increasing that. This was the perfect opportunity to push that boundary for them, as we women-folk just slightly outnumbered the blokes round the table. I think BeerBods soon learned to their peril what trying to engage women in conversation over a drink would entail, as within ten minutes of the meal beginning they had already had to relay both their proposal stories along with marriage assessments. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a man trying desperately trying to engage a group of women about the taste complexities of an IPA while being bombarded with questions about what he gave his wife for her last birthday, but it is quite something.
All opinions were welcome though, and in the spirit of a tasting club we ended up rating each beer as it came with every course. Some of them were an actual delight. A personal highlight was the elderflower flavoured beer from Copenhagen served in a champagne glass. The overall winner though was the IPA Jaipur from Thornbridge brewery. The gender divide (which I thought was partially evident in the rest of the rating) disappeared as everyone admitted this was a beer they would love to take home and introduce to their other half.
What became evident quite quickly is that this isn’t just a day job – this is a labour of love for both the men involved, which shows through in their attitudes when they talk about the various beers on offer, and how the business has come to fruition in such a short space of time. It is hard not to be affected and drawn in by such a sincere love of the subject; it also makes you confident that you are in safe hands.
As mentioned, the evening was designed to make people like me convinced that beer could be an equal to wine in its complexity and originality, and there is no doubt that they achieved this. The wonderful food was almost a side-note to the sheer breadth of flavours we experienced in the tastings that evening. I came away mainly convinced that their membership would make a fantastic Christmas present – either to the previously converted or a nervy first-timer like myself.
The tag line of BeerBods is ‘Drink Better Beer’ and undoubtedly the evening proved that if you find yourself supping a lukewarm Stella, grimacing at the stale, metallic undertones – well, you’ve got no-one to blame but yourself.