If you were asked to name the home of Australia's first and largest online wine distributor – one with clients all over the world – chances are it would be some time before you suggested Diamond Creek, a suburb on Melbourne's very outer edge. Yet it's here that you'll find Nillumbik Cellars, a bottleshop on a corner of the main street that's been run by the same family for more than 30 years, and its impressive online operation. And it's here that you'll also find an excellent range of quality beer from all over the world.
The craft beer side of the business was first driven in the main by Michael Harris, a former member of staff who embarked on his own journey into the wide world of beer a few years ago then decided to share what he's learnt with Nillumbik's customers before heading off to work for Murray's then Holgate Brewhouse. He oversaw an expansion in the store's beer selection from a point when a couple of British ales and Little Creatures Pale Ale was about as exotic as it got to one where the choice rivalled that of the 2,500 wines lining its aisles. Today, mainstream Aussie beers are given just half a fridge to call home, while other fridges are crammed with Aussie microbrewery beers and new and out there imports.
At the start of 2016, the small bottleshop once again upped the steaks by hiring Leith Booker (formerly of Richmond’s Purvis Beer), who quickly sought to reinvigorate The Beer Department. While Leith inherited an already sizeable beer range by any measure, he quickly went about improving wherever he could.
Part of this involved his commitment to rotating those beers on offer as often as possible, easily pushing out 30 new beers – with a strong focus on new Australian releases – every few weeks so his regulars could confidently expect to find new options every time they approached the fridge. He also created a dedicated can fridge; perfect for people heading out of the city to go camping, while also a hidden gem if and when Melbourne’s inner North bottleshops start running low during music festival season. In all, there are around 500 beers and 50 ciders.
Aside from the excellent wine and beer selection, there's also a wide range of spirits on offer, including scores of whiskies, and an onsite café and deli selling cheeses, meats, breads, chutneys, sweets and the like. You can even sample your purchases in the Vine Café (after paying a corkage charge) if you can't wait until you get home.
The café is also the site of Nillumbik Cellars' regular Beer Clubs, at which staff pick out a selection of new arrivals and beers that punters are unlikely to have come across before, or brewery representatives are invited along, for a laid back spot of beer appreciation. Theoretically, Nillumbik Cellars also plays host to fortnightly Friday beer tastings, but their popularity and the enthusiasm of many of Melbourne’s beer reps means it isn’t surprising to find one on every week.
In 2015 they purchased the adjacent shop and, after a fair delay (thanks to the local council attaching the liquor license to the wrong address), expect the space to be ready towards the end of 2016. This means that, come 2017, visitors can expect more space for events, wine and beer tastings and, maybe one day, a small bar.