What with his Belgian heritage, it was only a matter of time before Geoff Huens' taste buds told him that what was being served up as beer in Australia simply wasn't the real deal. Trips through the UK, US and Belgium in 2007 made sure of that. As for business partner Richard Kelsey, his experience of the craft beer revolution in his homeland of New Zealand meant he was never going to settle for the scarcity of good beer on offer in Sydney once he'd made the move across the Tasman. And thus Beer Cartel was born.
Initially an online beer club offering beers and beer-themed experiences, it was launched at the Bitter & Twisted Beer Festival in 2009. Soon afterwards, they realised a bottleshop was needed - not just for Beer Cartel but the people of Sydney too - so they took over an established store in Artarmon from Porter's Liquor and set about filling the shelves with quality beer sourced from all over the world. Within months, they had around 200 beers in stock and had installed one of New South Wales' first growler stations to pour fresh, local beer.
Since then, the number of beers in stock has risen to more than a thousand, arranged by country of origin and strongly represented by Australia, New Zealand, USA, Belgium, Germany, the UK and Scandinavia. Amongst them, beer lovers will find a focus on bolder styles such as sour beers, IPAs and Imperial Stouts and an ever-changing range of limited releases.
But it was the online business that has truly flourished with their impressive range of beer ready to be delivered anywhere in the country. They also added their popular advent calendars to their offering in recent years and, since 2016, have helped the industry gain an idea of how it's looking through their Australian Craft Beer Survey. That survey and the countdown to calendars are just a few ways of how the retailers have built a community of beer lovers around them, with another prime example being their thriving Facebook group, Beer Cartel Craft Beer Collective.
With staff experienced across the spectrum, from homebrewing to commercial brewing, Beer Cartel is run by a team who really know and love their beer. And that’s something that has been widely recognised in recent years: they've won a bunch of industry awards for their website, bottleshop, beer subscription service, and for their annual survey.
As 2022 drew to a close, they changed direction again, opting to close their physical store and concentrate fully on their online business, as you can read here.
All in all, it's fair to say they've come a long way since two mates started hand-packing boxes in a shed together...