It’s a bottleshop in a shopping centre – not traditionally the sort of place you’d expect to find shelf upon shelf of beers from across the country, let alone imperial stouts from America, fruited Berliner Weisse from New Zealand, and Trappist tripels from Belgium.
It’s also in Margate, a coastal suburb 45 minutes north of Brisbane’s CBD. Beer lovers from the far northern suburbs used to have two choices: travel farther for good beer, or drink less good beer. But now their local Bottlemart is serving up an array of beers from local breweries, from further afield in Australia and beyond.
There’s an entire island of shelves in store dedicated to beers at the craftier end of the spectrum, plus a few fridges. On one end of the island is a selection of pale ales, ranging from the very local – Green Beacon, Aether, Newstead Brewing – to other Australian breweries – the likes of Young Henrys, Mountain Goat, Pirate Life and Akasha – and then classics such as Sierra Nevada.
At the other end, legendary Belgians like Chimay, Duvel and St Bernadus stand alongside imports from New Zealand and the USA. And in between? A wide assortment of pales, IPAs, sours, red, stouts, barleywines… well, you get the idea.
“We’re only beginning,” says retail manager Stephen Klibbe of his growing crafty section, which used to be nothing more than one or two beers. “A lot of it sells by word of mouth, and I share on Facebook. Just telling people what’s out there, what’s new.
“We get a lot of new people coming in who thought we didn’t have much, then see it all and go, ‘Wow!’.”
Stephen’s expertise lies largely in wine, where the spectrum of flavours and weights has been recognised in Australia for much longer than in beer. In his 25 years of retail experience (15 of those in this shop), most of his time selling beer has been exclusively commercial lager, but these days you'll find him contributing personal tasting notes and reviews of beer and other drinks online as Cellarhound.
His preference is towards the maltier end of the beer spectrum, particularly red ales and imperial stouts, something he credits to his background and knowledge in wine (particularly his love of bold reds) as well as an appreciation for black coffee.
Margate’s a welcome waypoint for those visiting Redcliffe for the day, or even as a small detour on the way from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. But it’s the northern locals who have real reason to rejoice. Perhaps you’ve wanted to try some of the Brisbane breweries' beers, but haven’t made it to them. Perhaps you’re keen to jump on the newest releases the beer community is buzzing about. Or maybe you’re just relieved that you now have easy access to excellent beers from an abundance of breweries and styles.
Whatever the original purpose for your visit, be careful – when you find yourself picking through the singles, expect to be tempted by a glut of special batches and new favourites, especially when you realise that six mixed singles will wrangle you a discount.
And, for a throwback to when you were a kid at the supermarket eyeing off the lollies at the counter, there’s even an “impulse buy” section of beers right next to the till. A blessing and a curse. But mostly a blessing.