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Australia's reputation as a nation of beer drinkers has taken a battering of late with beer consumption in 2011-12 being at its lowest in 66 years. Whilst ciders and wine have been taking the edge off the big beer brands, this could be all about to change with the buzz around craft beer bringing punters back to the grainy liquid.
Whilst the Australian craft beer market is still very young and makes up only a fraction of the total beer market, 2.5 - 3.0% to be precise, it seems the majority of this craft beer drinking is taking place in Newcastle.
The city has become the epi-centre of the craft beer revolution, with the Grain Store's Corey Crooks the instigator of this revolution.
It's fair to say that Corey and his wife Kristy introduced Newcastle to craft beer, managing to turn The Albion, which they ran for 5 years, into Australia's first 100% craft beer venue. Not only did they just make it work, but they managed to sell more beer than ever before. Yet they weren't content at making The Albion a success and when the former Tooheys Brewery, also known as the View Factory, on the corner of Scott and Telford St Newcastle, became available Corey and Kristy saw it as an opportunity to build something from the ground up. A venue that would cater to the specific needs of the craft beer drinker.
Whilst craft beer has been hot in the international market for a long time now, Corey made the decision to focus their 21 taps purely on 100% Australian and independent craft beer.
A difficult task perhaps 5 years ago, yet today with more than 1000 craft breweries popping up all over the country, it's more of a question of which brewery to leave out. Corey said that the local brewers have come a long way with quality and consistency and whilst Corey isn't anti-foreign beers, he said there is a time and a place to support foreign varieties, he saw a need to support the local market.
Supporting the local market also crosses over to the wine and spirit lists with Corey saying he prefers to source locally produced products whenever possible. Focus is placed on Hunter Valley wine and Australian produced spirits as well as the ingredients used in their meals whenever possible.
Craft beer may not be for everyone but if you like to experiment, then perhaps now's the time to switch to the craft beer variety. With Craft Beer Week just around the corner, there has never been a better time to get your hops on.