There’s clear room for the growth of good beer in Sydney’s western suburbs.
One argument that’s never sat right with me is the one that says people in western Sydney don’t care for good beer. It seems to have an off-putting implication, as if those in the inner west, eastern suburbs or northern beaches somehow have more refined tastes or more money to spend on luxuries like good beer.
It strikes me as arrogant and short-sighted.
I don’t see why there’d be any less of an appetite for good beer in western Sydney compared to any other part of the city.
There are a few hot spots already. Riverside Brewing has called North Parramatta their own for a while, representing the west for good beer in Sydney. Recently we’ve seen venues like High Street Social in Penrith and Bankstown Sports Club put on a range of excellent local beer.
In itself that shows some variety. However, there’s a conspicuous lack of traditional pubs serving a range of excellent independent beer. Perhaps there’s also room for a brewpub or small brewery focusing on their own taproom.
The inner west has clearly taken off when it comes to good beer. Marrickville in particular can be identified as leading the way. It’s a large suburb with a mix of residential and commercial property.
It means there are areas that suit breweries, where council approvals and licensing are more likely given the surrounding buildings. But they’re close enough to residential areas that thirsty punters don’t have to travel far to drink good beer.
Given the space and the variety of properties in western Sydney, there should be room for smaller community breweries that take on a brewpub or taproom business model.
As Sydney’s expanding population gradually moves further and further west, and places like Parramatta become a second CBD, there are going to be a lot of thirsty residents and workers in search of good beer.
The decision to move GABS 2017 to Olympic Park briefly provided easier access to people seeking good beer in the western suburbs. It also showed that people are willing to travel for beer, suggesting that one stand out beer hub could attract visitors from all over.
Independent Bottle Shops
Right now those searching for beer to drink at home are restricted to a few local bottle shops. While those looking for something truly excellent need to head to the mountains for Leura Cellars, or order online from the likes of Beer Cartel or Bucket Boys.
Cutty Cellars has recently opened in Bankstown. It’s a small chain of shops that’s already established in Sydney and carries a good reputation among beer enthusiasts in the city.
A store like Cutty Cellars opening, with an existing reputation and plenty of experience, is a good litmus test for how an independent bottle shop will do in Sydney’s western suburbs.
The move is well timed. They’ve got in before others, meaning they can capture a local customer base and aim to keep them loyal.
There’s no doubt that competition among bottle shops is intense. It’s far from an easy business to get into. The sad closing of Medhurst & Sons in Glebe is testament to that. But perhaps there’s room for an early adopter in a place like Parramatta to serve a local community.
The spectre that looms large over this is large bottle shop chains such as Dan Murphy’s. It’s a business that has moved quickly to stock popular craft brands, from the likes of Pirate Life and Bridge Road to Firestone Walker and Sierra Nevada.
It would be nearly impossible for an independent bottle shop to compete on price. Brands like Dan Murphy’s have the clout to edge out competitors.
An independent bottle shop would need to compete on range. It would be important to curate stock that can’t be bought at somewhere like Dan Murphy’s, BWS or Liquorland.
Room For Variety
Much is made of saturation points in independent beer. It’s something that I’ve commented on before, highlighting the fact that there’s still room for variety, particularly when it comes to breweries.
Right now it seems like we’re approaching a point of “build it and they will come” for good beer in western Sydney.Right now it seems like we're approaching a point of 'build it and they will come' for good beer in western Sydney. Click To Tweet
One of my predictions at the start of the year was that we might see independent beer spread west through the opening of a small bar somewhere like Parramatta. So far Penrith’s High Street Social seems like the closest thing to that prediction coming true.
Parramatta in particular seems like the obvious place. Its reputation for good food, trendy cafes and coffee culture and creative arts is growing rapidly. With the shopping areas and sporting offerings attracting large numbers of people to an already busy area, why wouldn’t a good beer bar fit in?