Luke White and Brent Gove started Beer Jerk based on an idea for razors.
Online beer retailers are popping up all over the place these days and while they have their virtues – you don’t have to leave your house to order beer – they can come with their negatives too.
A recent order I placed resulted in the delivery of out of date beer while at another online retailer I ordered and paid for a beer which I was later told “wasn’t available and would I like something else?” which is just annoying.
But there’s one online outfit that’s swimming in a different direction, Beer Jerk.
I first heard of Beer Jerk when a friend tried, unsuccessfully, to explain how he’d just taken delivery of his first batch but had to wait until Thursday to try the first one. I couldn’t understand this waiting-til-Thursday bit until I met Beer Jerk co-founder Luke White at a Yeastie Boys event in Auckland recently.
“It is a bit confusing,” he admitted. The idea behind Beer Jerk is simple: you order online and a case of 12 different beers arrives. You drink one a week, every Thursday, for 12 weeks at which point another case arrives.
Well, why not? Or as White explains, it allows Beer Jerk members to all drink the same beer at the same time and then go onto a closed Facebook page or Untappd to discuss its merits. It’s like a virtual book club but with beer.
“If you look at Untappd on Thursday evening there will be 40 or 50 new reviews on that beer just popping up. Part of the fun is waiting for next week’s beer,” White says.
White, an Englishman, arrived in New Zealand in 2009 with a background in photography and a love of real ale.
“I was running a photo studio in England and it was a bit dark and rainy and I heard New Zealand was nice so I came over for a holiday. Within three months I was back home packing up for good and I’ve been here ever since. I just love New Zealand, and love Auckland.”
After a diffident start with New Zealand beers, White landed a job behind the bar at Galbraith’s in Auckland and his breakthrough moment with Kiwi beer came when he tried Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black. “It was the beer that made me realise how great some of the beer in New Zealand was.”
With his mate Brent Grove, he began exploring the New Zealand beer scene but the idea of searching for continuously new and interesting products got them wishing someone would “curate and select beers for us”.
They wanted something like the America-based Dollar Shave Club which delivers razors and other personal grooming products to consumers by mail, saving money, time and supermarket decisionmaking in front of an ever-changing array of blades on offer.
As with all great ideas, if no one’s doing it, why not do it yourself. So Beer Jerk was born last year offering a curated collection of beer delivered to your door – and for a pretty good price of $102 a dozen.
Beer Jerk is slowly turning a profit as memberships grow but for White and Grove it’s very much a hobby as they continue to work day jobs.
The business relies on White’s advertising skills and beer knowledge but mostly on Grove’s merchandise background and his “fantastic” ability with spreadsheets.
Because, if you think about it, this is one hell of a logistical exercise, with the pair having to always to be 12 beers ahead of themselves so any new member can jump onto an evermoving train and join others on the same beer the week the first box arrives.
Each week, members get an email newsletter telling them which beer they should open with accompanying tasting notes and background on the beer style and brewery.
“People love the novelty,” White adds, “especially these days when a lot of people never drink the same beer twice. I’ve strong opinions for that and against that. I’m supporting it by having a club where you never have the same beer twice but I also hope I’m going against it by opening up people to new breweries like Brave that they might not have tried.”
White estimates the subscribers get a 50-50 mix of New Zealand and imported beer and also get the special treat of having some some beer exclusively bottled for Beer Jerk members, with Funk Estate, Mata, Weezledog and Outlier Cartel – all hand-bottling what would otherwise be keg only beer.
And, finally, what about the name?
“We wanted to be memorable as so many other names are just forgettable but it’s also ironically having a look at the way a bunch of people can sit around and talk nonsense about beer … beer is not a serious thing. But we’ve got this community who love what we do and are really engaged.”