Carawa Road is a fairly quiet street in the fairly quiet suburb of Cromer in Sydney's Northern Beaches. As you drive through this typical suburban scene, the only thing that might jump out at you is a small cluster of shops about halfway down. There are no more than half dozen of them; neighbourhood staples like a cafe, takeaway, hairdresser and a small liquor store by the name of Cromer Cellars.
From the outside there's really not much to distinguish it from any liquor store in any other neighbourhood. But go inside and the fridges start to tell a different story. Instead of being met by nothing more than stacks of the usual big brand lagers, you're greeted by good beer. It's somewhat of a surprise, but most certainly a welcome one.
This place is a labour of love from husband and wife team Sean and Melanie Cogan. Having managed to convince the building's owner that the previously empty shop would be better served as a liquor outlet than another cafe, they've gone on to establish a little haven where you can find something a cut above what you'll get anywhere else in the nearby area.
On a day to day basis it's Sean you'll find behind the counter pushing the message of better beer - as well as the odd wine or spirit. His passion for beer is infectious though and it's put him on the path to becoming something of a local doyen. Regulars put so much faith in Sean's recommendations that they often don't even bother looking at the shelves themselves - they'll just walk in and ask: 'What have you got for me today?"
What they've got is a solid selection of brews featuring dozens of independent Australian breweries, supplemented by a few international guests. It's not the kind of store where you'll find absolutely everything, but you will always find something to satisfy. The range rotates frequently, due in part to the store itself being tight on space but also because they like to keep things interesting. And of course sometimes a beer or brewery just proves so popular that, once word gets out, it disappears quickly. If you should happen to find yourself in such a state of disappointment, Sean occasionally keeps a few special things hidden away so it's always worth asking what's what.
With the store becoming increasingly crafty and drawing in more people from nearby suburbs, the Cogans are proving that the thirst for change isn't confined to the inner city. In fact, if every little suburb had a little liquor store like Cromer Cellars, the beer world would be a much better place.