I was chatting with a friend here in Belgium today -- at first about work, but then, soon enough, about beer -- and he asked me exactly the same question Fiona and I have been grappling with lately: can you buy the less common Belgian beers online and have them delivered to your home?
There seems to be a gap in the market here in Belgium. Yes, we have online shopping from the bigger supermarkets, but they tend to have a very limited selection of beer. They stock about 20 or 30 varieties only, so if you want a mass-produced pils like Jupiler, Stella or Maes, or even if you want one of the more common Trappist beers like Chimay Blue, Westmalle Triple or Orval, you can order online and have it delivered in bulk. But wander just a little outside the comfort zone of the major mega-marts, and you'll find they can't quench your thirst.
Now, there are web-based shops for the rarer Belgian beers catering to the export market with rather ridiculously inflated prices. Sorry, I can't afford six or seven US dollars per bottle plus shipping and handling for a St Bernardus Prior 8 that costs about one euro around the corner.
However, I can't get every bottle around the corner. I've got a handful of favourite small shops and non-chain supermarkets within striking distance of my home that are good for one beer or another. Plus, I'm always on the lookout when I'm in a different Belgian town for whatever reason.
Yet, the core problem remains: there are literally hundreds of Belgian beers I can't buy in shops here in the centre of Brussels, let alone get delivered to my home. What good is Belgium's beer diversity if I can't access it easily here in its native land?
Some will say the fun is in the chase. That's partially true: I do love finding a new beer in an unexpected place. And somehow I have tried some 150 or so beers already, and every one over, say, 50 or 60 is not exactly common, so it is possible.
But what about those times when I want to have a beer tasting with a few friends, and we want to go off the beaten path a bit? What can be done? Is there some service I don't know about? Answers to this question warmly welcome...