While mainstream breweries are chasing the lighter, mid-strength dollar, beers that push the boundaries are the ones flying off the craft shelves in 2019.
Craft Cartel Liquor founder Ben Malouf has been tracking the evolution of Australia’s beer scene since the launch of his iconic brick and mortar store in Western Sydney in 1998.
Craft Cartel Liquor opened an online store in recent years to allow for national distribution and Malouf says he remains devoted to hunting down the most sought after seasonal releases and limited-edition Australian craft beers to share with his customers.
He’s just launched Craft Cartel Liquor’s first Craft Beer Club, offering subscribers a craft beer selection each month or quarter to expand their knowledge and palates.
Drinks Trade sat down with Malouf to get the lowdown.
The craft beer scene has evolved dramatically since you first opened Craft Cartel Liquor in 1998 – what are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed?
The craft beer sector was a wasteland 20 years ago, almost non-existent. Around 10 years ago the movement started to gain a small amount of traction. We decided to get in on the ground floor. Slowly we started to see smaller breweries opening their doors and the odd pale ale hitting the shelves of a select group of bars and bottle shops. Fast forward to 2019, with over 600 breweries in Australia alone, consumers are now spoilt for choice. There’s a beer for every taste and budget.
What’s the biggest trends you’ve seen coming to the fore in the last 12 months in craft beer?
New England IPAs (NEIPAs) have been all the rage in the last 12 months. We are seeing an increase in breweries pushing the boundaries; using a variety of different flavours to set their beers apart. Whether it’s ageing their beers in cognac barrels or adding lactose to enhance flavour, nothing is off limits these days.
Do you have any personal favourites in the craft beers you’ve tasted over the past year?
Old Man Yells at Cloud by Old Wives Ales would be one of my favourites at the moment. It’s a NEIPA so its quite topical, but they do the style better than anyone else in my opinion.
Green Beacon’s 6th Birthday Milkshake IPA and Old Wives Ales Old Man Yells At Cloud Double NEIPA are recent releases that have been flying off the shelves – what’s driven their appeal with your audience?
We’ve noticed that people love to try beers that push the boundaries in terms of flavour and are hard to get their hands on. These beers tick both those boxes!
Do you offer the widest range of craft beer in Australia? How do consumers keep track of so many beers?
We have over 700 beers in stock at any time, which makes it one of the largest ranges in the country. Keeping track of all the new beers can be tough, that’s why we launched our Craft Beer Club.
What prompted the launch of your new Craft Beer Club and what does it entail?
We found our customers love trying new beers but often don’t know where to start. With so much choice, selecting a bottle or case can be overwhelming, especially for those new to the craft beer scene.
Our team sample a multitude of craft beers throughout the year and are constantly speaking with brewers about their latest releases, we love sharing our beer knowledge and encouraging our customers to try brews they wouldn’t usually reach for.
For $59, we hand-pick eight fresh beers in a range of styles from around the country for our members to try, either monthly or quarterly. Tasting notes are included in each case, so the drinker gets a better insight about the beer style and its characteristics, then we deliver the case straight to their door. Or our members can split their case with a mate and sign up to a monthly or quarterly 16 pack (which includes two of each beer) for just $99.
For more details on the Craft Beer Club check out ccliquor.com.au/craft-beer-club