Slowly but surely, the picture for craft beer lovers along the East Coast is improving. However, for those in Newcastle, it's been rosy for some time, not least because of the existence of the Warners at the Bay Bottleshop, which houses one of the biggest collections of beer anywhere in Australia. More than 1,000 beers and around 70 ciders can be found in it fridges and on its shelves, from the most mainstream of local offerings to the most obscure of imports from more than 50 countries.
It's not just bottles on offer either, with Warners installing its Growler Machine, a purpose built growler filling station capable of pouring up to eight different draught beers into punterss 2l glass vessels at any one time. The biggest setup of its kind in the country, it's been doing a roaring trade since going operational in April 2011, offering punters the chance to take draught beer home and sample beers that brewers might not put into bottles.
What's more, while you'll find walls lined with quality imports such as Mikkeller and Rogue, Warners is very much part of the local beer community too, enjoying a good relationship with nearby breweries Murray's and the Hunter Brewing Co. It also runs a hugely popular annual beer festival on the last Sunday of November every year, attracting brewers and punters from across NSW and further afield. As of 2011, the festival forms part of Newcastle Craft Beer Week, a series of events taking place across Newcastle's venues that was dreamt up by manager Mark Mead and Corey Crooks of the Albion Hotel.
The bottleshop - named the best in NSW in 2010 - is part of the wider Warners at the Bay operation, a family-owned business that also features a 50-room motel, bistro and live entertainment venue, ensuring it lives up to its motto: "Come, Stay and Play".