When you write about beers that aren’t exactly mainstream and so don’t often appear on the shelves of the local BWS, one of the most common questions you get asked is, “where can I get these beers?”
This happens more and more often as we enjoy the rapidly growing range of beers being brewed in Australia by a burgeoning craft beer industry. They’re being made but they can be very hard to find in bottleshops and pubs.
Many of Australia’s small craft brewers aren’t big enough to brew the volumes needed to supply the giant national retailers, or even keep up with local demand. This means that beer lovers need to work hard to track down some of the more esoteric drops. In his pursuit they are assisted by a growing band of small and independent bottleshops that specialise in the boutique end of the market.
Finding interesting beers on tap – and some of them are only available in keg form – is even harder. Apart from the supply and distribution issues common to bottled beer, the lucrative tap contracts entered into by the big brewers means access to pubs and taps can be hard to come by for small brewers. Contracts see cash rebates and other financial support given to hotels in return for near exclusive pourage rights. It’s a good business arrangement for big breweries and for hoteliers, but can also serve to limit choice for beer drinkers.
Of course, near monopoly in one part of a market often provides opportunities in another. Several bottleshops around the country have seen an opportunity and are now offering hard-to-find tap beers for take home consumption in growlers. Slowbeer in Melbourne was one of the first to do this, and 2Brothers and Murray’s are two breweries that that have also adopted the growler to good effect.
Now growlers have hit Brisbane with West End boutique bottleshop, Nectar Beer and Wine, installing a refill station to add to its already impressive range of bottled beers.
This is simply a keg system installed in a modified bar fridge that allows beer lovers to purchase a refillable bottle of tap beer.
Nectar’s Manager, Carl Rhodes, says it’s not a new concept but it’s a first for Brisbane.
“A couple of breweries and bottleshops in Melbourne have been doing it for a year or so, and it’s becoming more common in the United States,” he said.
The US ‘growler’ is a resealable half-gallon (1.89 litre) bottle, but Carl has found supplies of these hard to come by and is in the process of importing more. Instead, he uses 750ml ‘tallies’ with an airtight swing-top lid while he waits for his growler laden ship to come in.
“It’s a good size price-wise and also to size-wise,” Carl said of the smaller bottle.
“The first beer we have on is pretty strong at 8.2% (alcohol by volume),” Carl says. “So a tallie is certainly plenty.”
“Unopened, the beer will stay fresh for a few days. But once you open it you want to drink it pretty quickly or it goes a little flat within about six hours,” Carl advises.
The first beer through the system was a double India Pale Ale from United States craft brewery, Southern Tier.
A 750ml bottle of this imported beer costs $14, while the growler costs $30, with the one-off bottle purchase extra. Prices will vary depending on the beers poured.
Carl says that as one keg runs out he will put a new one on so there will be something different all the time. While the first beer was an import, he will be sourcing a range of Australian craft beers as well.
Nectar Beer and Wine
114 Boundary Street, West End.