March 22, 2013 by Crafty Pint
When we spoke to Corey Crooks he was amidst a marathon session with a heat gun and scraper, peeling what he reckons was âabout 200 layers of paintâ off some enormous wooden columns at an old grain store in Newcastle East.
Becoming a tradie perhaps isnât the career change youâd expect from the man who was, for several years, the licensee at The Albion Hotel and a driving force in turning it into one of Australiaâs most respected craft beer pubs. Thatâs because it isnât a career change; his stint as a tradie is a temporary but necessary part of constructing his and Newcastleâs latest craft beer venture: The Grain Store. The good news for Corey and local beer enthusiasts is that it shouldnât be much longer until he can swap the power drill for a pint.
âWe plan to be open in about a month,“ says Corey, "but thereâs still a lot of work to do.â
If youâre a fan of local beer, itâll be worth any wait. The new bar will feature nothing but independent Australian beer, all poured fresh from a bank of 20 taps: no bottles, no corporates, no imports.
There will be the odd exception but not many, not often and all must still fit within the bracket of being an independent producer.
Says Corey: âWeâll only do overseas beer on special occasions, like US stuff for the Superbowl.“ Thereâs also likely to be some leniency for beer brethren from New Zealand, the so-called â7th stateâ. âBut,â Corey suggests – perhaps only half in jest, âin return weâd also like to see more Aussie craft beer in New Zealand too.
âOther than that, our day-to-day beer will be Australian. The âeveryday lagerâ will probably be from Stone & Wood, a house IPA would be from the likes of HopDog Beerworks or Bridge Road. Coopers will be the most mainstream youâll find here. But weâll still have every style, every day. In the middle of summer youâll still be able to get a stout.â
Considering the impending independent slant, the buildingâs origin provides a rather ironic twist; it was apparently constructed in 1885 by Tooheyâs as a place to house grain and store beer. âUnfortunately for them,â says Corey, âthatâs likely to be the only association theyâll have with the place now."
The age of the building invariably means itâs needed a bit of love to get it up to scratch but, despite only officially getting the keys two weeks ago, things are happening very quickly. The cool room is expected to be built by the end of this week, the new stainless steel bench is coming, booths are being constructed and the outdoor space is already more spacious after the overgrown foliage was ripped out. Once the new furniture and pizza oven arrives the place will be well on itâs way to being ready to receive guests.
The kitchen, run by Coreyâs wife Kristy, will offer a much simpler range than her former charge of the Bistro Albion. Where that was a restaurant, The Grain Store will focus more on casual dining, with all day pizzas and shared plates. “Weâre basically looking to do food that complements the beer,â says Corey.
In a way, that sums up the Grain Store. Itâll be the first place of its kind in Newcastle to be built from the ground up specifically with craft beer in mind, rather than a progressive change or repurposing. As Corey says: âEverything here will be about craft beer: the food menu – everything. I think itâs really exciting for Newcastle.â
Itâs hard to argue. What’s more, the promise of another great craft beer venue for Newcastle stakes another claim for the Hunter region as being one of the go-to destinations for good beer in Australia.
The Grain Store will open on the corner of Scott and Telford Streets in Newcastle East. Keep up with the journey from bar construction to beer consumption on Twitter.
Keep up to date with all the latest craft beer action in New South Wales with Nick O on Twitter.