Liquor Legends Ashfield proves a couple of things. The first is that the thirst for craft beer is everywhere – even in places you mightn’t expect it. The second is that all it takes is one passionate person to tap into it and, once they do, it’s hard to stop the rising tide.
In this case, back in 2013, Luke Griffis took on a behind-the-counter job at this unassuming, old school liquor store hidden away beside the basement level car park of the Ashfield shopping mall. Like most stores of its ilk, their stock and trade was selling mainstream brands of booze which kept business ticking along nicely enough. But when, after only two months, Luke was thrown in the deep end and given the opportunity to manage the place, he seized the chance for change and started by setting his sights on beer.
It began with a basic test: popping a few classic German beers near the counter and seeing how they went. When those sold, they tried a few more. Then more still. The selection grew and grew until it was swallowing up fridge space and shelves, all the while relegating RTDs and mainstream beer brands from the fluorescent light into the shadows. Now the store has a selection of craft beer that would legitimately keep any drinker happy, with choices from Stone & Wood’s quenching Pacific Ale all the way to Nail Brewing’s tall, dark and handsome Clout Stout.
The majority of the craft beer they stock is Australian, though the most popular are those brewed in and around Sydney from the likes of The Lord Nelson, Batch Brewing and Sydney Brewery. Likewise, locally produced cider, such as that from Young Henrys, is proving as popular as the brewery’s beer. The store even has the strangely uncommon sight of a Cooper’s fridge fully stocked with every product from the iconic Aussie brewer’s stable; mild to vintage stout.
Their range of international craft beers has followed the same growth pattern and now features beer from all over the world with a particular focus on the USA, New Zealand and Belgium by way of the 'Belgian Bookshelf', a set of old shelves hauled out from the storage room to show off the Belgian beer selection and accompanying specialty beer glasses.
With Ashfield being something of a multicultural melting pot, alongside all the fresh and funky new brews they’re careful to cater for their customers’ tastes for home by stocking classic brands from around the world, from ubiquitous Euro lagers to little-known but much-loved brands from the Pacific. For added authenticity, all of these are fully imported rather than locally-brewed versions.
The successful transition to craft beer has seen the store go forth and take the same approach to wine. Formerly the sole domain of big name brands, wines from smaller producers are increasingly finding favour with locals looking for more flavour.
It may still have the outward appearance of a store stuck somewhere in an endless loop of specials and mass-marketing promos, but there’s real quality hidden beneath it all; who doesn’t appreciate the delicious irony of plucking a lovingly made local brew from a fridge that’s still sat beneath an old sign reading ‘RTD Scotch’?
It’s testament to changing tastes that in the bunker of a shopping mall – the very stronghold of charmless franchises and cookie-cutter fashion – Liquor Legends Ashfield is carving out a crafty little corner.