The Beer Necessities

December 10, 2014, by Crafty Pint
The Beer Necessities

There's no doubt this weekend's Meredith Music Festival will, in one sense at least, be like none of the 23 preceding Meredith Music Festivals. In the not too distant past, those who made beer their tipple of choice would have little option but to rock up with slabs of macro lager, cheap Euro pilsners of little known pedigree, pint cans of English ales or, maybe if they hunted hard enough, some Uncle Tim's from Coopers. This year, the "no glass" policy in the Supernatural Amphitheatre will be no hindrance for beer fanciers.

The CraftyWagon alone will be carrying cans of pilsner, two pales, three IPAs, a wheat beer and a Flemish red as the craft in cans revolution turns ever faster. But it won't be just a colourful array of tinnies on display. Look out for PET growlers and even beer-filled pouches too.

The last of these will have come from one of the newest and most idiosyncratic beer stores to have opened in Australia (as may many of the cans too). BeerMash isn't Australia's first growler specialist store – that honour went to TRU BRU in South Yarra last year – but it's quite probably the quirkiest: pouring from its 20 taps is more than just beer.

"All 20 are freely flowing and it's a pretty exciting array of things to try," says co-owner Kieran Hennessy. "We never wanted to be just about beer; it's about flavours and tastes. There's cider, kombucha, cold brewed coffee, two wines… Anything that's fermented or brewed with an interesting story, we want to sell it."

It's not just the array of drinks coming from the BeerMash taps that's unusually colourful; they've lined up all manner of means of taking them home, in part a legacy of Kieran's time with EcoKeg, the Melbourne-based, single use keg company. There are the usual glass growlers and squealers plus high end, double walled stainless steel growlers, the PET growlers designed by Sydney's Rocks Brewing and even the afore-mentioned pouches. Not to mention more traditional vessels: bottles and cans.

Kieran Hennessy at the BeerMash wall of taps"I had a passion for growlers from two years ago on my travels with Ecokeg," says Kieran (pictured right). "I'd been invited to Russia by a PET manufacturer and they explained the beer world there, how growlers originated there and how they'd developed the Pegas system [a growler filling system used by some Australian breweries and venues]."

With TRU BRU, opened by another Russian with whom they held discussions before opening BeerMash, beating them to be first in Melbourne, Kieran and business partner Geoff Sturre set about creating something different, a policy that goes beyond the offering of kombucha, cold press coffee and so on.

"I negotiated the regional distribution for EcoGrowlers [the aforementioned pouches] from the manufacturers in California so we have rights to sell them to anyone and everyone from here to Hong Kong," says Kieran.

The rationale is that not everyone will want to fork out for a glass growler, even if the first few weeks suggest beer lovers are happy to invest in their vessel.

"If people have never tried the concept before then they can buy one of the Rocks PET growlers for just $5 but if you know what you're doing then you can get the double-walled stainless steel ones [designed by Keg King for home brewers]," he says. "We're selling more of them than anything else."

He says the store has already earned repeat customers, in no little part thanks to a policy of "trying to be over-loving" to them.

"We're not black and white about rules," explains Kieran, who will be hoping BeerMash enjoys the success of the other Smith Street venture in which he's involved: Rockwell & Sons.

"If people bring their own growlers in, we'll fill them, and the big thing we want to be known for is the place that's generous with our tastings.

"[Giving customers the chance to try 60ml samples from the taps] is a form of education for people. If they know nothing about craft beer, they can look at the tap list and try the beers before deciding what to buy."

This Friday will see them kick off weekly in store tastings, with Kaiju! the first guests, while three months down the line the plan is to look into changing the license to allow more than tastings.

"We get a lot of people coming in saying, 'Oh, can't we have a beer?' and while I don't want to become a pub we'd look to do something more like Slowbeer [a bottleshop with a bar license so people can drink in]."

Ultimately, they'd love to bring food trucks into the back alley for laneway parties like the ones run successfully at Rockwell a stone's throw away but first and foremost it's about giving people's palates a good time.

"We're all about giving people a taste of interesting products from around the world that you can't get at Safeway," says Kieran. "And pushing draught beer and freshness."

BeerMash is at 306 Smith Street, Collingwood and is open Wednesday to Sunday from midday (or earlier) to 8pm, except on Sunday when it closes around 5pm.

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