What with his Belgian heritage, it was only a matter of time before Geoff Huens' taste buds told him that what was being served up as beer in Australia simply wasn't the real deal. Trips through the UK, US and Belgium in 2007 made sure of that. As for business partner Rich Kelsey, his experience of the craft beer revolution in his homeland of New Zealand meant he was never going to settle for the scarcity of good beer on offer in Sydney once he'd made the move across the Tasman. And thus Beer Cartel was born.
Initially an online beer club offering beers and beer-themed experiences, it was launched at the Bitter & Twisted Beer Festival in 2009. Soon afterwards, they realised a bottleshop was needed - not just for Beer Cartel but the people of Sydney too - so they took over an established store in Artarmon from Porter's Liquor and set about filling the shelves with quality beer sourced from all over the world. Within months, they had around 200 beers in stock arranged by country and had installed one of New South Wales' first growler stations, from which they've poured beers from local breweries, including Rocks Brewing, the Australian Brewery, HopDog and Doctor's Orders, as well as international beers from the likes of BrewDog and Mikkeller. Now the number of beers in stock has risen to more than 400 and they offer both growler and squealer fills from two different taps on constant rotation with a focus on non bottled beer from Australia and overseas. With so much to choose from, they offer a 10 per cent discount on all purchases of 10 or more singles.
Following the success of their first beer appreciation session during the inaugural Sydney Craft Beer Week in October 2011, they transformed the upstairs area into a tasting room. This can hold tasting sessions for up to 24 people at a time. And, while on premise sales continue to grow, the online side of the business goes from strength to strength too, with the Beer Cartel website winning a trophy at the 2011 Beer & Brewer Awards. Log on and you'll find a monthly beer club plus the chance to buy beer packs, gift hampers, beer merchandise and experiences too. Meanwhile the venue itself was named Best Bottleshop in 2012.