When it comes to beer I love the search for what’s new and interesting and unless I’m picking up a few beers for a Friday night fish and chips, I’ll generally try new beer over something familiar. This is what drives me into the bottle stores and bars around Melbourne.
To learn what motivates others when it comes to craft-beer purchases, I decided to head to Slowbeer, a speciality craft-beer shop and beer café in Melbourne, for a a beer and a chat to the customers. Luckily for me it was a 34 degree day. Perfect drinking weather to pull up a stool and get talking.
First up was Sam. A regular customer, he was in trying some canned beer in preparation for Meredith — a music festival that lets you bring your own booze for the weekend as long as you don’t bring glass. The lead up to Meredith, and its sister festival Golden Plains, is always a rush to find decent beer in cans. Luckily for people like Sam the hunt for good canned beer is getting easier and he had snared himself a Brooklyn Lager and a Yo-Ho Aooni for a bit of a sample. Chris, the owner at Slowbeer, tells me he will be stocking up on cans in the lead up to Meredith and has already had a few inquiries.
Following Sam was Fiona, toting a yoga mat, she was buying beers for her husband. With their anniversary coming up she selected a Red Duck Sexy Thing “because of the label” she told me. Fiona and her husband are also regular customers and while he prefers the more mainstream lagers such as Boags, and she is a cider drinker, they both like to try something different. She had also grabbed a HopDog BeerWorks Superbeast, a 10.6% barley wine. A long way from mainstream, I hope it goes down well.
After Fiona, Chris and Shae came in because they had some time to kill and wanted something refreshing. Slowbeer recommended the Baird Japan Tale, a sour plum wheat beer which was on tap at the time. Shae told me that Chris “likes boring beer” and is a Carlton Draught fan, she prefers Mountain Goat. They both, however, like dark beers. They agreed the Japan Tale was tasty and refreshing.
It didn’t take long before someone I recognised came in, in the form of Dan. A fellow beer fan, Dan had just been to a homebrew demonstration at Grain and Grape and was stopping in for a sneaky beer afterward. Being fairly serious about his beer, Dan went straight for the Moylan’s XXXXHop Craic – an American Imperial IPA – which is certainly no easy refresher. Takes a hardy man to go for one of those early on but Dan is a fairly regular customer and chose the beer because he knows it and likes it. A pretty good system.
Homebrewer Paul came in next looking for a Saison. Paul wants to brew something in the style but had never tried one so went for the Saison Dupont – a beer widely believed to be the best example of a Saison. Paul knew the reputation of the beer which is why he went for it and whether he brews one or not will depend on whether or not he likes it. Being a fan myself, I hope he does. With the summer months coming up it is the perfect time to ferment a saison with saison yeast working better at higher temperatures. Given their light but tasty nature, summer is also a great time to drink one.
Martyn was next in. An ex-pat Brit who, while living in New Zealand for twelve years, and Australia for a couple, still had an easily identified accent. Martyn had read an article about Slowbeer in Time Out magazine recently and had finally found a chance to come in. A fan of wheat and dark beers, Martyn is a craft-beer drinker. He enjoyed a Baird Japan Tale and also picked up a bottle of Kwak and a Red Duck Vanilla Porter – on the recommendation of the next customers, Cail and Clio.
Like Dan, Cail and Clio are familiar faces and serious craft-beer fans. Anyone that follows them on twitter would have seen them drink their way through New Zealand recently. Today they were after something suitable for the weather after they realised most of the beer they had at home was high in alcohol or too dark. Cail was also excited to try the Temple Brewing “People’s Pint” again after its debut during Good Beer Week. While he wasn’t disappointed, the Baird Japan Tale was leading the fight for “what should we buy a growler of”. They also grabbed two Two Birds Sunset Ales, a La Sirene Saison, Red Duck Bell Hop and The Tiger, Mornington Peninsula Imperial IPA, and a 2 Brothers Growler (brown ale, not the draught filled growler). Seeing their indecision, I would wager they grabbed a couple more after I left.
As the day went on, Slowbeer started filling up with thirsty customers so I decided to wrap it up, but not before chatting to Dwayne (a t-shirt proudly proclaiming “Homebrewer”on the chest may or may not have swayed me). Dwayne had just been fishing with his son and caught a couple of flatheads. Coming from Whittlesea he likes to take the opportunity to pick up some beers when in the city. Grabbing a pretty good haul, Dwayne had picked up half a dozen different brews, HopDog Beer Works Halloween, Stone and Wood Garden Ale, Bridgeport Kingpin, Little Creatures Single Batch Puffing Billy and the Holgate Nut Brown Ale.
Finally, I decided to grab some beer myself (admittedly I had a couple during the afternoon but that is all part of the job). The hot weather led me straight to the Baird Japan Tale and my girlfriend, Emma, selected a La Sirene Wild Saison – one of our recent favourites. I also snuck a couple of the new Boneyard Golden Ales into the fridge for my brother to pick up later on.
So what did I learn from my afternoon? I guess that people can have different motivations for buying a well made beer. Whether it is because the name is a good one for an anniversary present, or that they just want to kill some time, craft-beer is giving people interesting options. A sour plum wheat is enticing even if you like “boring beer” (their words, not mine) and as a craft-beer lover, encouraging people to talk about beer is just as enjoyable as drinking it myself.
Thanks to those who let me interrupt their day and have a chat.