It's Beer Festival time...

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But not quite as you know it. Hands up if - like me - you look forward to the end of May and the excuse to duck into a giant tent on Jesus Green to drink beer, scoff some nosh and meet up with loads of people? It's surely no exaggeration to say it's one of the social highlights of the year for Cambridge locals. At Thirsty, we also get the chance to catch up with lots of brewers and other hospitality folk, so it's a great networking gig, too.

Covid-19 has obviously put a giant STOP to all that sort of thing for the mo (and for the foreseeable future). So we had a think about what we could do instead this week. We've always had access to the very best beer in the universe, so we had that side well covered. It was just a question of getting the stuff out to you and helping you organise a virtual 'get together' with your mates, where you can at least share part of the beer festival experience together, albeit from home via the Interwebinstawaves.

We've assembled five great line-ups - hoppy, sour, dark, international and mixed - each containing six beers from different brewers. We've made a cider pack, too, and there's a mead pack coming. Go have a look at the range here >>>. As well as the packs, we'll be serving up litres of draught freshies all week to drink at home. Keep an eye online on what's pouring.

That ties into our decision to gradually reopen at Chesterton Road from Tue 19th May, initially just for limited daytime hours Tue to Sat, for collections of online orders and for contactless take-home purchases. We would strongly discourage you from making a lengthy trip over to see us. Let us continue to deliver great grog to you like we have over the last eight weeks. But if you're local to Chesterton Road and can combine dropping into Thirsty with your other shopping (Radmore? Boots? Wallers?) and/or exercise routines, we're open 10-2 on Tue/Wed/Thu and 10-6 on Fri/Sat. Sadly, you won't be allowed inside the building and we ask you to rigorously respect the 2m rule while waiting outside. But it's a small step back from the depths of this crisis. Let's hope the worst really is behind us all...

Are you #Thirstyforwine?

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For a long time, I've been conscious that beer has been hogging the limelight at Thirsty. With a team that was closer to the world of beer than wine, it's no surprise that we've ended up with such a stratospherically sexy beer selection. But we've always maintained a carefully chosen range of wine - leaning more and more towards the 'natural' side as time has gone by (especially at King Street). And, let's not forget, I may love great beer, but I love great wine even more (I'll whisper that very quietly to the beer fraternity)...

In the last few weeks, I've been unleashing a purchasing blitz upon the UK's importers of the grape, with the result that we've already doubled the number of wines to nearly 200 and will continue to broaden that further. To summarise what we're aiming for, we've simultaneously beefed up our selection at lower prices that you can enjoy every day, while adding a cornucopia of interesting, quirky - often weird and funky - wines right across the park. Whatever you're looking for and whatever you have to spend, you can be 100% sure that any wine you buy from Thirsty will come from real people who are passionate about wine-making (not marketing) and respectful to the world all around us.

I do not seek to replicate what other retailers can offer you. Thirsty is not the place to seek bargain-basement, bland-brand fruit juice, nor cellars full of dusty claret. I want our wines to always display a sense of character and personality - and to convey the reality that wine can be accessible, fun and interesting. Even to beerheads.

To help you navigate this new line-up, we've put together *13 new* #Thirstyforwine mixed cases, where we've done all the hard work of choosing for you *and dropped our trousers on the price a bit more*. It may not sound like hard graft, but I'm deadly serious when I say that we put in a lot of hard yards on the tasting and selection front before we choose a single wine to sell to you lot. I first started farting about in wine when I worked at Oddbins during my university holidays back in 1991. I spent several months in Bordeaux and Germany during my languages course year abroad in 1993, lived in Cape Town for 5 months in 2002, before finally setting up my own wine business Le Verre Gourmand in France in 2005 (which continues to this day). I've tasted (and drunk) a hell of a lot of wine. So I think you really can trust me to pick out only the good stuff for all you fine Thirsty slurpers.

I'm mega excited about this upping of the wine ante and about these mixed cases in particular. Sure, there are some more regular selections in there like the everyday 'Tous les Jours' (available in 6- or 12-bottle packs). But there are some fantastically unusual picks in there, too. Have a look at the 'New New World', for example - 6 brilliant wines from S Africa, Oz & NZ that will show you how these countries have moved on from blockbuster sunshine bombs. 'Pet Nat Party' will introduce you to the sexiest style of fizz on the market today - Pet(illant) Nat(urel). 'Gagging for Gamay' shows you why this most feminine of grapes is so lovely. 'Skin in the Game' takes you through the increasingly popular world of so-called 'orange' wines, where you leave the juice of white grapes to ferment with the skins. Beerheads even have their own case - 'Wines for Beerheads'. The list goes on. The best thing to do is to cruise over to the Mixed Cases category and have a look through - there's a short intro about each selection when you click on each case. And as an intro carrot, you'll get an extra 5% off these cases - meaning you save 10% on bottle prices with a 6-pack and 15% with a 12-pack. Bish bash bosh.

But I'm not stopping there. Oh no, sirree. We'll continue to add more and more interesting wines to the range at all price points. We kickstart our new online wine events with a chitchat to Justin Howard-Sneyd - the man behind The Bee-Side - at 6pm this Tuesday 12 May on Instagram Live. We'll be announcing details of online tastings later this week and sharing a rather exciting plan to launch a new online wine course (that ain't like yer usual wine courses or schools - not a chance). More on that in due course. Cheers all - Sam

More juiciness this week...

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Afternoon, all. Thirsty Sam here. It's the start of a new week, even if the concept of week vs weekend has been somewhat blurred of late. I'm experiencing the opposite of most of you during lockdown: I'm out and about all day during the week, delivering booze to you all. So it's rather nice to have a couple of days at home with my clan over Sunday/Monday. Not that I've spent it sitting about on my arse, mind you. I find it difficult to switch off at times like this - the mind is constantly whirring with this or that crazy idea. So I've spent today in a veritable frenzy of sorting stuff out...

First up, very exciting news for all you laaaarvely beerheads: this Friday, we launch #fridayfreshies. We'll have six beers available for you to order, freshly poured from the taps at Chesterton Road into 1-litre bottles. Choose three of the six beers. We'll pour them around lunchtime and whizz them straight over to you in the afternoon, lovely and cool, ready to go. We have to limit this to folk inside our 6-mile Cambridge zone for now and we'll probably cap the numbers at about 15 folk to start with. We don't want to cock it up.

Next, we'll be kickstarting our new online events programme this Thu with a virtual beer tasting and brewery visit with the lovely guys at Three Hills Brewing in Northants. We have five of their beers fresh in, so you'll need to order them here on the webshop, ready to join in with us on Thu eve from 5.30pm. Here's a link to a five-pack of the beers. We expect to run it on Instagram Live, but it's very much a case of the blind leading the blind, so keep up-to-date with our social media this week - and bear with us if we have any technical glitches on the night. We're hoping to showcase a different brewery every week and we've lined up similar events with Pastore on 14 May and Track on 21 May. It should be a great way for you to learn more about the beers we sell and, in particular, the brilliant people who make them.

While I'm talking beer, we continue to order and receive an absolute beernami of the stuff. From last Friday until later this week, we will have received new beer from over 20 breweries: Pressure Drop, Pastore, Wiper & True, Beerbliotek, Howling Hops, Hammerton, Deya, Kernel, Partizan, Nirvana, Amundsen, Northern Monk, Burning Sky, Boxcar, Three Hills, Siren, Lervig, Augustiner, Collective Arts, Brew York, Anspach & Hobday, Signature and Vibrant Forest. We want to keep on bringing you beer-lovers the very best we can get our sticky paws on, so please keep on browsing the selection frequently, so that you don't miss out. For info, we put it live as it comes in.

BUT, BUT, BUT. It's not all about the beer. Oh no, very far from it. It continues to surprise (and sometimes even frustrate) me that the sexiness of our wine range often gets lost in all the noise around our beer selection. Don't forget that I'm old wino at heart. I love the stuff. I *live* the stuff. We had some groovy new wines on Friday from one of the funkiest importers out there - Uncharted Wines in uber-hip East London. Check out the organic Sicilian pair, the brilliant wines from Westwell in Kent and the cloudy Menti petnat from Italy. We'll have a load more funky monkeys in next week from another decidedly non-mainstream importer, Wines Under the Bonnet, including a massive hit from last summer at King Street - the Fledermaus (or Bat) wine from Germany's 2Naturkinder. It's cloudy, murky, a little bit cider-y - and just effing marvellous. These wines don't tend to be the cheapest on the market, so for more everyday quaffing purposes, we've beefed up the selection and created a new EVERYDAY WINES category in the webshop. They're keenly priced and, don't forget, you can knock 10% off if you put together an order of 12 or more things, spread across wines, beers, ciders, softs or whatever.

Righto, that'll do for now. I've also popped a video onto IGTV (the Instagram video service) with a similar message. If you can bear to watch my ugly mug for 9 mins, head over to our Instagram feed here. Cheers all - and thanks, as always, for your ongoing support.

Thirsty Sam

Welcome to a crazy new world...

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Howdy ladies and gents, so here's my new blog. Yes, you know you've been waiting for it ALL YOUR LIFE. Really.

If you've had the misfortune to watch my vids and Facebook Live sessions over the last few weeks, you'll know that I'm perfectly happy to wibble on, make silly faces and occasionally swear. I can't do the faces bit on this blog, but I sure can wibble on it - and please don't get prudish if I use the odd naughty word.

This truly is an extraordinary time. I mean that literally: we have all been hoiked right out of the ordinary, the everyday, the normal. All of our lives have been turned upside down on both personal and professional levels. But it is what it is. So we have to deal with it and respond.

At Thirsty, that has meant me having to furlough everyone so that each member of the team has some degree of financial stability and the business can keep its cost base to an absolute bare minimum, thus having the best chance of coming out of this thing in more or less one piece. We've completely changed the whole model of our business. It's also meant me rolling up my sleeves and becoming Chief Everything Monkey. Call me a weirdo, but I secretly relish that challenge. I don't like status quo and things that never change.

We are lucky that we have always had a retail side as well as the hospitality side. For the foreseeable future, we will be 100% a retail business, not a hospitality one. I'm humongously relieved and cheered by your support over the last few weeks. Thank you very much indeed. We do have some good laughs at Thirsty, but we all work effing hard and I'd be gutted to see the business slide into long-term hibernation or even extinction. I really feel for our friends and colleagues who run bars, pubs, cafes, restaurants, etc. Although I don't possess a crystal ball, I reckon there's every chance that social distancing restrictions will prevent such businesses from reopening to customers before 2021. And even when the doors do reopen, we should not kid ourselves that it will be like it was before March 2020. It won't. People will be mega-wary, people will be feeling a lot poorer. We will be inside the swirling belly of the biggest global recession/depression for 90 years.

But before we all top ourselves in the doom and gloom of it all, I am determined to keep supplying you with absolutely top-notch grog: sexy craft beers, beautiful wines, yummy ciders and lovely softs or no/lo-alc drinks. It's what we know and, if I may be so bold, it's what we're good at. I'm not suggesting that you should drink yourselves into oblivion. That probably won't help anyone. Perhaps we should all stick to that 'drink less but better' motto you hear bandied around. [I'm hopeless at that. I just end up drinking 'more but better'. It's the old 'kid in a candy store' analogy.]

So there you go, there's a starter for ten from me today on our new blog. I'll try to keep this reasonably well updated. Perhaps once a week? Let me know how often you think it would be useful to hear me spout.

Cheers, you lovelies, Thirsty Sam