August 3, 2011 by Crafty Pint
Of all the major cities outside the state capitals, Newcastle fares pretty well when it comes to craft beer. The Warners On The Bay bottleshop has a huge range of beer and has been doing a roaring trade on the growler filling system it installed recently that offers six beers at any one time. Hunter Beer Co and Murrayâs are both just a short drive away while a steady trickle of bars have started expanding their beer lists and replacing mainstream taps with craft beers. And now that trickle looks like bursting the dam, or at least becoming a heartily bubbling brook, with the announcement of Newcastle Craft Beer Week.
It’s the brainchild of Corey Crooks at the Albion Hotel. Since joining the venue two years ago, he’s overseen a transition that means seven of the ten taps now feature the likes of Stone & Wood, Murray’s, Lord Nelson, Holgate, Little Brewing Company and more, mostly rotating. There’s also a 100-strong bottle list that includes imports such as Rogue and plans to add another ten taps and a handpump in the coming months.
“We’re selling more craft beer than mainstream so that it’s almost a case of preaching to the converted,” he says. “Particularly in 2011, it’s gone beyond my own little hobby and passion â we get guys who are going out of their way to come in here and try the beers.”
Corey had lined up a craft beer dinner at the venue for November when he got chatting to Mark Mead, manager of the Warners at the Bay bottleshop, and realised it was scheduled for just before Warners' annual beer festival. They decided it made sense to run them on the same weekend, talks developed and suddenly there was a week of events.
“Holgate got word it was going on and wanted to do something so we lined up a tasting session at the pub,” says Corey. “We branched out to include ten other venues in Newcastle that support craft beer and it all started to happen.
“Everyone has offered 100 per cent support. It’s been overwhelming, particularly from Newcastle Council. The local Fairfax paper has offered their support and is talking about a liftout in the paper the week prior. The local AHA is behind it too.”
It certainly seems the appetite is there in Newcastle. In a recent conversation with Murray’s head brewer Shawn Sherlock, he spoke about a beer and cheese evening he’d hosted and how surprised he had been at the knowledge among the audience. He said it wasn’t typical of those found at many craft beer events yet attendees not only knew of his brewery but were asking if he’d brought some of his Icon Double IPA along.
Already, the week is set to include events featuring the Beer Diva, technical talks, masterclasses, tastings and dinners. In addition to the breweries mentioned above, 4 Pines, Red Oak, Burleigh Brewing, Mountain Goat and Matilda Bay are involved, along with beer company McLaren Vale, while beer importers Innspire have offered to bring flavours from across the world to the party. Venues taking part include the Dockyard, Prince of Wales Hotel, Junction Hotel, Silo Restaurant and Lounge, Mary Ellen Hotel, Bar Petite, The Clarendon Hotel, Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club and Hotel Delany.
Newcastle Craft Beer Week runs from November 21 to 27. For now, the best place to keep up to date is via the event’s Facebook page.