Being the Urban Beer Nerd that I am, I’m always on the lookout for rare, hard-to-find, unique and limited-release brews. Many of my favorite breweries are located in Belgium and elsewhere overseas. Often these breweries’ most unique beers are released in very limited quantities, and the brews that do make it to America are often difficult to locate and/or very expensive.
So a few months ago, I started researching ways to buy my own Belgian beer online and then ship it to Boston, where I can sit in the comfort of my own home with the rare beer of my choice. I was sick of only being able to drink Cantillon beers a few times a year and paying an arm and a liver for bottles when I could find them.
Before I go on, a warning seems appropriate: When you order beer online, you do so at your own risk. Depending on where you live, it may not “legal” in the strictest sense of the word to buy beer online from an international retailer to ship to your locale. And in many cases, shipping companies will not accept and deliver packages with beer in them.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll say that personally, I have not had any issues ordering beer from BelgiumInABox.com or EtreGourmet. And when the sites declared the contents of my boxes of beer, as is required by Customs, they usually wrote something like “lambic glassware” or “collectible bottles,” which was technically true because I usually bought glassware in addition to beer.
Anyway, both of these sites offer reasonable prices on beer from my favorite Belgian breweries, including Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Fantome, Rodenbach, Tilquin and Blaugies. Shipping is expensive, but it’s not too much more than the markup you’d pay for a rare bottle at a beer bar or through a retailer. For example, the last time I ordered from BelgiumInABox.com, I purchased a 750ml bottle of Cantillon’s 2013 Kriek Lambic Bio (about $13), a 750ml bottle of 2012 Fantome Saison (about $9) and a 3 Fonteinen gueuze glass (about $16) for a total of roughly $38, and the shipping cost around $43.
My previous EtreGourmet order looked like this: a 750ml bottle of Rodenbach Caractère Rouge (about $20) and two 375ml bottles of Oude Quetsche Tilquin 2012-2013 (about $25 for both). The shipping was about $53.
The shipping is expensive, but I’ve been willing to pay it for beers I would not otherwise be able to find in the United States. I feel confident my payment card information is secure, because BelgiumInaBox uses Ogone for payment processing, a well-known and trusted Europe payment processing service, and EtreGourment accepts PayPal. And both sites have HTTP Secure Web pages for payments.
My packages of beer arrived in great shape, and overall, I’m very pleased with the experience with both BelgiumInABox.com and EtreGourmet. Another site that’s been recommended to me is BeerPlanet.eu, but I’ve heard rumors about some of the site’s shipments being held up in customs, so I never ordered from them.
I probably shouldn’t even be writing this post, because it may draw unwanted attention to these sites and services, but fuck it. A post like this would have been helpful to me when I was trying to fine reputable sites to order from, so I wanted to share my experiences.