SPECIAL REPORT: Boutique beer is providing business opportunities outside of Perth’s pubs, restaurants and bars.
Boutique beer is providing business opportunities outside of Perth’s pubs, restaurants and bars.
A new breed of bottle shop is emerging in Perth, with several liquor outlets specialising in craft beer – even offering it on tap – to draw punters away from the big box chains that dominate the market.
While craft beer makes up just 3.5 per cent of the overall beer manufacturing in Australia, according to IBISWorld research, revenue growth for the past five years for boutique brewers has averaged 10.1 per cent per annum.
That compares with just 1.7 per cent annual growth forecast in the overall beer industry for the next five years, with traditional brands tipped to lose market share to more premium-style product.
Statistics like those indicate changing tastes in beer consumption, with quality superseding quantity for many drinkers.
That growing popularity of craft beer has led to the emergence of speciality retailers, with five bottle shops around Perth claiming to be experts when it comes to the finest froth.
Belmont’s Mane Liquor was the first venue to offer beer on tap; a move owner Elliott Moore said was made to provide punters with rare beers that they’d previously have to get at the pub, or direct from a brewery.
Mane Liquor has a range of more than 1,000 beers in its fridges, and regularly rotates kegs from local and overseas breweries across its five taps, to sell in two-litre bottles, known in the industry as ‘growlers’.
The other venues where punters can pick up a growler, or its one-litre little brother, the ‘squealer’, are the Freo Doctor Liquor Store, the International Beer Shop in Leederville, and Cellarbrations stores in Carlisle, Willagee and Hamilton Hill.
“When the Great Eastern Highway extension came through, we were making a loss most weeks,” Mr Moore told Business News.
“Most of the products that we were actually selling were the hard-to-find, niche items, because it was nearly impossible to get in here.
“Because of the roadworks you couldn’t just drive through, pull in and pull out, and you really had to work to get here, which meant the guys who really wanted those hard to find products would come.”
“Our customers love it; as much as we sell good products, and that’s what makes us different, it’s also what we don’t sell,” he said.
“We don’t sell cask wine, we don’t sell cheap port, we don’t sell a range of things that you would expect most shops to have.
“That’s even down to some spirits. We choose not to sell Johnnie Walker, we would prefer to drive people into a different product.”
The Cellarbrations Superstore in Hamilton Hill is one of the newer specialty shops to open its doors, having been operating for just over two years.
Owner Nick Trolio, formerly a partner in the Mane Liquor business, said customers had really taken to the concept of a store that offered a comprehensive range of local, international and hard-to-find beers.
However, Mr Trolio said having a bigger range also presented bigger challenges.
“The running costs are higher, the logistics are greater and there are a lot more probabilities of things going wrong,” he said.
“But all that aside, we do it because we have a passion for it and we do it because our customers enjoy it.”
In addition to growlers, the Cellarbrations Superstore sells its tap beer in ‘canimals’, one-litre cans that are sealed on site.
Mr Trolio said the smaller cans gave more people the opportunity to sample exclusive beers.
“With a two-litre growler, sometimes it’s not price effective,” Mr Trolio told Business News.
“Right now, we’ve got Stone Arrogant Bastard – it’s probably in the top 10 beers worldwide, but it’s $50 for two litres.
“Everybody wants it, but not everybody can afford it.
“Putting it into a one-litre can, everybody can have a play.”
He said the wider craft beer industry in Western Australia maintained an ethos of inclusion.
Mr Trolio said he was extremely proud to support local brewers, who, in his opinion, produced brews that were right up there with the best worldwide.
“It’s amazing the quality that’s being produced in WA at the moment and no-one is slowing down,” he said.
“They’re all looking at larger breweries or collaborating with other brewers.
“One thing I will say about craft beer that’s very different to anything else I’ve sold in the 30 years is … there is a real mateship about beer and craft beer in general.
“There are no secrets in craft beer; they all shout it from the rooftops and want everyone to know and to follow.
“It’s about the industry growing, not just individuals.”