A bottleshop that’s part of a large chain, situated on a main road in a Sydney suburb, is the sort that could easily be overlooked by those on the search for craft beer – but step inside one Bexley outlet and you’ll be reminded why they say to never judge a book by its cover.
While the Porter's Liquor name may be shared by another 30 or so stores across New South Wales, each of them is independently owned and operated. This means they retain the purchasing power of any large business, while being able to stock whatever they’re most passionate about. For Porter's Liquor Bexley, that’s a tantalising range of craft beer.
Within its four walls are no less than seven fridges full of the what could well be best selection of local and international brands to be found in southern Sydney. In fact, you’ll rarely find a beer not in a fridge here – almost all of it is cold stored in order to keep it as fresh as possible. That’s an initiative by store manager Ian Shearing, who was the first to suggest a focus on craft when the store came under new ownership in the middle of 2016.
Given his friendly nature, it’s no surprise that he’s already managed to forge important relationships with both customers and distributors alike. He greets regulars by name and has managed to snag some less common brews, including Stone & Wood’s Beers from our Backyard series and Modus Operandi’s extremely limited canned releases. With assistant manager Sean Bradshaw having different tastes in beer, the pair frequently bounces ideas back and forth before settling on the best use of their fridge space.
In the future, the ultimate goal is to stock at least one beer from every brewery in New South Wales. It’s quite the challenge given how many keep popping up, but one that hints at their intentions.
Of course, the other states are well represented in the fridges, as are brewers overseas: look out for the likes of Norway’s Nøgne Ø and Deschutes from the USA, or even rare finds such as Labi Beers, a small brewery from Northern Italy. However, if that still isn’t enough to satisfy, customers are encouraged to request anything they’d like to see on the shelves: it’s store policy to stock anything that’s requested, provided it can be brought to Sydney, of course.
To complement the massive selection of craft beer, Porters Liquor Bexley also boasts a thorough selection of local wines and craft spirits. Whether the latter is matched to a beer with a boilermaker or simply used as a nightcap, there’s sure to be an appropriate, locally distilled aperitif for any taste.
For a region of Sydney’s that’s still fairly new to craft beer, it’s both brave and refreshing to see a store break the mould – and so enthusiastically too. No doubt that kind of dedication is sure to draw the attention of locals and visitors alike, who, if our experiences and that of Ian’s regulars, will soon enough be welcomed into the store like old friends.
Marie Claire Jarratt