Home' National Liquor News : NLN JUNE 2017 Contents 28 | JUNE 2017 NATIONAL LIQUOR NEWS
HOW DID YOU GET INTO LIQUOR RETAILING?
Nine years ago Geoff Huens and I both worked in market research and we
had both had experience with drinking awesome beer. My first job out of
university, I worked for a craft brewery and got paid in beer, and they made
awesome beer – and that was doing market research, so that kind of got me
interested in it. And Geoff has a bit of Belgian heritage and so he went over
and saw his family there and they shared with him some of the amazing
beers that existed and that kicked it off for him.
DID YOU FORESEE HOW BIG CRAFT BEER
WAS GOING TO GET IN AUSTRALIA?
That was well before the craft beer boom started, it was even before Dan
Murphy’s had an online store. So we started off with a little storage shed
at Kennards and we were under a wine storage area and we had a tiny
little shed and a monthly beer club, and so that was in 2009, and in about
2010 we realised that to exist we would need an actual store as well, so we
purchased a store that was Porter’s Artarmon in 2011 and went from there.
So back then we started with 30 craft beers, so it was absolutely nothing and
over time it has built up, so we’ve got 1000 different beers now, it’s only really
in the last three or four years that craft beer has really taken off. At the start
it was pretty slow going and pretty tough times, but it’s moved on since then
and is starting to pick up, which it great.
HOW DO YOU STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE
WITH CRAFT BEER?
It’s a challenge. It comes down to quality and what people are asking for.
I think we could probably access 4000-5000 different beers if we really
wanted to, but a lot of those aren’t going to move in our store, so knowing
what the customer wants and what we’ve tried and what we are passionate
about and can stand behind. That’s the guide for us on how we decide.
Some weeks we get up to 30 new beers that come into our store.
We’ve got pretty suppliers that keep us in the loop with what’s coming out
locally and some of our importers are pretty good on that as well. But it is
a big challenge.
So we stock 1000 different beers but in the last year we actually went through
1000 beers, so if you imagine we’ve got say 700 that are permanent beers and
there was 1000 different beers that rotated through the other 300 beers.
AS AN INDEPENDENT RETAILER HOW
CHALLENGING IS IT TO COMPETE?
It’s definitely tough, you can’t compete on price, you have to be competing
through other means, and so for us it’s about the experience that we offer
the customers. Everyone who works here is really passionate about craft
beer and knows a lot about craft beer, so we educate people along the way
and that has always been our focus. It’s about taking people on a journey
into that world of craft beer, and we are really passionate about that and we
know when people start out they might have a Coopers Pale Ale and that kick
starts the interest and then they look at things from there, so it kick starts the
interest and we are more than happy to then take them on that journey and
show them some of the whacky stuff that is out there.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN CRAFT
So going back to the start, both Geoff and I worked in market research and we
had these skills. We’ve always thought that as a business we wanted to be able
to give back to the industry that we work in, so we thought one way we could do
that would be through the craft beer survey last year, so the idea was to not only
keep those results to ourselves but to make them available to everyone. We had
6,500 people complete it and the whole industry was able to get those results.
HOW DO YOU THINK THAT BENEFITTED
It gave retailers an understanding of what people were drinking and how they
actually thought about craft beer. We looked at things like bottles versus cans
and so one of the things was that it’s still a perception that bottles are better
vessels for beer, even though I would argue that the opposite is actually true,
so there’s a perception there that’s different from the reality. We looked at what
types of beer to stock as far as styles, the states that great beers are coming
from and attitudes towards craft beer and beer in general. I think there was a
lot that was of value and the idea is to do the same thing again this year.
WHAT’S NEXT FROM YOU GUYS?
We’re always working on different things and different ideas. Last year we
did an exclusive tasting event for Sydney Beer Week where we gave away 12
seats to a tasting of some of the most awesome beers you can get, I think
it was about $1000 worth of craft beer that people were going to try. Some
of them were really hard to get beers that these 12 people got to try. We will
probably look at doing something similar this year and we’re always trying to
be innovative in the things that we do.
We’ve got a real focus on education as well, so we’ve got a few tasting
classes in-house and we also do Facebook videos as well as a way of
educating people about craft beer.
WE CHAT WITH RICHARD KELSEY THE CO-FOUNDER OF CRAFT BEER SPECIALISTS BEER CARTEL.
THIS SYDNEY-BASED DUO HAVE BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR FIRST THE AUSTRALIAN CRAFT BEER
SURVEY AND MORE RECENTLY THE AUSTRALIAN HOME BREWERS SURVEY.
L-R: Richard Kelsey
and Geoff Huens.
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