Not too long ago, this Thornbury bottleshop was just another run-of-the-mill outlet ticking along steadily without pulling up any trees. Then it was taken over by a former viticulturist raised in the heart of West Australia’s craft brewing culture and things began to change. Ben Carwyn began stocking boutique beers and wines and the northern suburbs had a bottleshop worth hunting down.
Since then, it's moved up the road, continued to expand the bottleshop side of the business and now added a bar. And what a bar: the entire back of the venue has been taken over with the centrepiece a huge, wide font pouring 20 taps of all craft beer and cider (except for one tap that pours Negronis...). On offer are classy nibbles with the beer supplemented by wines, including many curios, and a colourful spirits collection, including heaps of Mezcal.
The bottleshop now stocks more than 300 beers, with homegrown brews from Australia’s finest sharing fridge space with imports from across the globe. Traditional ales and lagers from Europe sit alongside big, ballsy and downright weird styles from the US and Canada to Japan – the store tends to get its hands on a fair number of uber-oddball releases such as BrewDog’s world record-breaking Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink The Bismarck.
As such, it’s become the epitome of a good local, with knowledgeable staff eager to guide regulars towards new beer adventures and mystery bags (brown paper lucky dips containing three or six mixed beers) there to tempt the uninitiated. Carwyn’s success is something of a barometer for the growth of the craft beer market in Australia too, with one staff member once telling The Crafty Pint, for a Sunday Age story about luxury beers: “It’s easier for me to sell a $40 bottle of beer than a $40 bottle of wine.”
It’s not just about the beer, though. A wide selection of wine, cider, Perry and spirits line the walls and are featured in regular tastings. There are also regular masterclasses featuring brewers and winemakers – and festival-goers should take note: they make a point of ordering in a wide range of canned beer when Meredith and Golden Plains roll around. And, as of 2014, the staff also brews its own beers, down at 3 Ravens, which you can sample in the Back Bar.