We all know the phrase: “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” If you were to apply it to Page Bottler, you could argue it should come with a supplementary warning too: “Or after opening the cover.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with the bottleshop’s cover, which comes with some pretty glaring clues: the posters advertising some of the craftier offerings inside; the A-frame proclaiming “CRAFT BEER OASIS”. Aside from that, however, Page Bottler doesn’t look overly dissimilar to many a suburban bottleshop.
Step inside and you still might not realise what lies in wait. There’s a few fridge doors to the left stacked with the likes of Capital and BentSpoke beers (this is Canberra, after all) plus other craft offerings you’re likely to pick up by the six-pack or slab. There’s some quirkier and rarer fare straight ahead, but there’s also more in the way of wine, spirits and mixers elsewhere; there’s even a fridge offering milk and other basics, a legacy of owner Tim Rasheed’s initial aim in 2014 to run it as something of a general store, albeit with better booze than most.
You need only do one of two things to discover why this place lures beer lovers from across the city and further afield, however: walk into the cool-room or let the person behind the counter know you’re into your beer.
If you take option one, well, look out! When it comes to awesome beer per square inch, you’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere in Australia to beat it. Sure, there’s a few cartons stacked in there – mostly of the value craft ilk rather than macro lagers – but mainly it’s shelf after shelf of the sort of beers likely to have you drooling, whether you’re chasing hype from home or abroad or merely the freshest new arrivals.
The policy is to maintain stock of around 400 different beers at any one time and, aside from a few key lines, rotate them in and out as fast as possible. Indeed, ensuring nothing sticks around too long is the aim of one shelf in particular: when Tim wants the last few cans or bottles of a particular beer gone, they’re placed there and offered for $27 per mixed six or $50 a mixed dozen. Time your visit right and you’ll chance upon a bargain bonanza.
You don’t actually need to visit to take advantage of what Page Bottler has got to offer either. And that’s thanks to a subscription service Tim believes is unique even in what’s become an ever busier space post-COVID. While it took him a while to reach the point he’s at now, he’s more than happy with where he’s landed.
In essence, it’s like many similar offerings out there: you pay a regular subscription fee and you regularly get sent beers wherever you are in Australia. But it comes with features that make it stand out from the crowd, the main one arguably that you’ll never be sent the same beer twice – the Page crew keeps a record of every beer they send every subscriber and cross-checks each order before sending them out.
Boxes are also custom-built for each and every subscriber: as a beer lover, you specify not only how many beers you want in each delivery, and whether you want one or two of each beer, but also specify the styles you’re interested in receiving. Then it’s over to the team to build your box from those specifications, and send it your way to discover its contents, a little like receiving a Christmas Canvent box of surprises every time a delivery arrives.
As for the man behind the enterprise, Tim grew up in Page (the suburb, not the bottleshop) and spent ten years as a store manager for Dan Murphy’s before striking out on his own, supported by business partners Locky, Joe and Mark, who he says have provided business knowledge, accounts support and "numerous other things" along the way.
He landed on the site thanks to a tip-off from a hairdresser mate working nearby who told him it was about to come onto the market. Once installed there, Page was one of the first six stores to stock BentSpoke cans (dozens of cases disappeared on the first day and the pace has barely slowed since) and the first to have Pirate Life in Canberra too, which led to a rush from the city’s beer geeks when they discovered they could pick up the 500ml IIPA cans.
From that point on, the selection just kept growing, while Tim’s half brother Harry joined the team, not only easing Tim’s workload and amassing more beer knowledge, but also bringing with him a quite spectacular afro. Tim argues Harry has taken to the role so well there are customers who prefer to come in when he’s working; given our visit to take photos and check out the store turned into two hours of laughter and conversation – interspersed with visits from a couple of beers reps, of course – we can be pretty certain you’re going to enjoy your visit to Page Bottler for more than just the array of booze.
While events took a backseat during the pandemic, you can also look out for tastings at the store and, less regularly but more entertainingly, bigger affairs such as their car park parties, which typically feature a food truck and ten breweries and wineries serving up to 300 punters.
Returning to the analogy at the start (and apologies in advance for the awful pun), if this bottlo really was a book, it would be a real page-turner.