The Sussex Bottle Share

On the surface of things, Wednesday 17th was just like any other cold, damp and dark January evening, as we had slid into the new year and edged further away from the festivities of the previous month, Dry January was on many people’s minds, but nationwide campaign Tryanuary was on mine and this wasn’t, in fact, a typical January evening at all

I’d volunteered as a Local Champion for Tryanuary ’18, helping to promote my local beer scene; the brewers, the pubs, the bottle shops and taprooms. Events had been thought up and one of those was of my own making; a Bottle Share. I was anxious that nobody would turn up, that pennies and waistlines were needing to be looked after, but with bottles clanging I hurriedly made my way to Brighton (with my Husband and Brother in tow, just in case my anxiety proved to be right) where a table had been reserved by the obliging Brewdog bar. The last to arrive, I turned to see faces and beers and realised that this thing was a goer; the Sussex Bottle Share was born.

That first meet up was exactly one year ago yesterday and last night we celebrated our 1st birthday. I’m happy to say that since our first meet we’ve grown as a group, from that initial gathering of seven we’ve now got an invitation list of twenty-six, we meet every month when we can, opportunities to meet for drinks have extended beyond the monthly meet-up too, and there is always, always great beers and good laughs had. Some of the best beer I drank in 2018 was at the bottle share, beers such as Beerbliotek’s I Don’t Usually Drink Breakfast; a Coffee IPA; sampled at the Scandi themed evening, or Goose Island’s Brewery Yard Stock Ale and Sam Adams Utopia from the US night, Horal Oude Geuze Megablend 2015 from the very first share and every single West Coast IPA that’s made an appearance, but it’s more than fair to say that this group has become more than just a chance to try new beers, it’s a chance to spend time with like-minded folks and it’s up there as one of my highlights of the year. It’s at this point I should say a huge thanks to Brewdog Brighton, The Malt Shovel and Chapeau Brewery for hosting us last year, and an even bigger thank you to South Downs Cellars who’ve become a hub for us, accommodating the share the most last year and was there to host us again for our celebrations last night. 

Putting a bottle share together is something I had wanted to do for a while and to see it come together and take on a life of its own is a great feeling and something I wholly recommend; if there’s a seed of an idea in you to get a share together then, in the words of Nike and Shia Labeouf – Just Do It.

Tips and Tricks:

Hosting: You could host at home if you’ve got the space and inclination but it’s worth reaching out to local businesses too, this way you can support and engage with your local scene.

It’s not just about the beer! You’ll want to keep dehydration at bay so make sure you have plenty of water to drink between pours and snack on plain crisps or crackers to cleanse the palate.

You’ll need a few things too:

  • enough glassware for everyone and preferably all the same size
  • water to drink and water to rinse glasses
  • something to empty rinsing water (and perhaps beer *gasp*) into
  • bottle openers
  • snacks (see above)
  • a fridge – some beers may need chilling

Try a theme such as beers from a specific region or a specific style only

Think about the order in which you’ll be pouring. If there are pale/low abv beers for example, start with them and leave the big, bold Imperial stouts for last so you don’t completely destroy your taste buds early on.

Say thanks to the host and if you’ve been hosted by a business leave a tip and/or buy beers/food whilst you’re there. Support the people who’ve made room for you, don’t be rude.

Last of all, but perhaps most importantly, don’t judge. It’s not about who can bring the rarest beers, it’s about socialising, learning a little bit along the way and having a damn good time.

If you wanna get involved and join the Sussex Bottle Share then please get in touch so I can add your name to the invite list (WhatsApp group) and keep an eye on social media channels, Instagram in particular; follow #sussexbottleshare to keep up to date.

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Founder and Editor of Look At Brew - a beer blog dedicated to the celebration and promotion of the modern beer scene. Contributor to Beer Imbiber magazine, Regional Coordinator for the Sussex Tryanuary campaign and founder of the Sussex Bottle Share.