I still remember the first time I walked past Ev’s shop. It was literally a double take. As the shop is rather unassuming it is very easy to walk past as I nearly did on my way to catch the train. I walked by and some beautiful bottles caught my eye: Heretic Gramarye, Garage Project La Calavera Catrina, a good helping of BrewDog and some Mountain Goat Rare Breeds. I was stunned and literally just stared at that window, I could not believe that craft beer of this quality was making its way out this far. It was brilliant and everything I could ever have dreamed of…. The train trip left my mind instantly as I floated into the store and began drooling on the shelves, at which point Ev wandered over and we got chatting. And the rest in history…
Evin is one of two managers at Low Buy Liquor; he is, as he likes to describe it: the sparkle, and Chris (the other manager) the level head. He just can’t get enough, which is very evident for anyone who has been tracking their efforts in the shop. From a handful of beers to a range of over 400 unique craft beers within a time frame of 12+ months, it is going strength to strength. I have never met someone so passionate about craft beer and bringing craft beer to the outer eastern suburbs which is something that gelled with me instantly and what really kicked off our friendship. So without further ado, lets get into the Nitty Gristy with my good mate and beer mentor: Evin Craney.
Where did your Brew Saga Begin?
At the shop, as a hazy eyed 18 year old. Had been working at a pub, an old English tavern. Lots of draught, Vic and stale Guinness. Handed a resume in at the bottle shop for something part time and, as any 18 year who’s not studying, I had some disposable cash and started drinking Chimay and Duval just to kinda look cool… I had a bit of a cooling off period from beer and did some sommelier work and cocktail work but came back to craft.
What was the beer that turned it all around for you?
Undoubtedly it was Mountain Goat Hightail Ale. That has always been THE beer that got me into beer. It really signified the turning point where I stopped drinking main stream and moved into craft. It’s all I would ever drink.
What inspired your craft beer movement out to the eastern suburbs?
It probably started a little bit out of boredom. It was something to work on, and beer seemed a very obvious choice. I’ve always had a real sense of wanting to bring better beer out to the eastern suburbs. I got really sick of the ‘that’s good enough’ mentality and have always been passionate about a better quality product. We’ve always had great wine out in the valley, great food and great produce and I really wanted to spear head the push for great craft beer in the eastern suburbs. People were sick of having to drive all the way into the city to get their beer, we just wanted to be the difference. Plus, there’s a bit of ego in it…
Have you seen a growing trend of people buying craft in your store?
It just gets better and better, every week there are more people coming into the store and its really refreshing to see. When we started off there were a few people, and word of mouth just happens and working really hard on social media and letting people know they can get it! Plus, I’m notorious for hounding distributors for anything that may be coming out and being the one to have it first as a point of difference and diversifying. My motto is ‘don’t sell crap’. It’s important to me to bring people back to the beginning and really educate them, but never making them feel stupid and giving them a better understanding. I would say 1 in 4 now will walk into the shop and buy craft. Its gone from a very minimal percentage to quite a large spectrum of what we do and its the reason we are able to invest heavily in great craft for the store. I’ve been quoted on Crafty Pint saying we are the hardest working bottle shop in the east, and it’s because we have to be. That’s what brings them back.
What do you love about the industry?
Well, in terms of retail, it makes it much easier for me coming from hospitality. There’s a lot more down time. A lot more hands on time with the customer, talking face to face with them. There’s a lot I don’t know about beer and I can’t know everything, and it’s great to have customers who may know more than me and talk to them and get their experiences and inform me. It just creates a really good relationship and atmosphere where people can come and enjoy the product, it’s really honest. By far the craft beer industry is the best part of the liquor industry. There is no pretension, it’s very unpompous, there is not a single arse hole in craft beer. It’s very easy to get involved and no one has an agenda, you can chat to brewers about details and you want to do your own beer and if you wanted a hand they would be the first to put their hands up. The likes of Hendo from Brewcult has literally handed me his business card and told me when your ready to go commercial, give me a call and that was from a 20 second chat. He’d be willing to show us his recipes and help us build our own! You just don’t get that in any other industry. It’s such a brilliant mind set, it’s about helping each other succeed and from that the industry will grow. It’s really communal and driven by passion.
Have you ever changed someones mind in terms of craft?
It’s very easy when people come into the shop and are looking around. My launch pad has always been Two Birds Sunset Ale. It’s the go to; if you’ve got someone who is on the tipping point this is what I give them. This one has always been a mind changer, sometimes you’ve really got to battle with people but you can’t push too hard. It’s silly to push someone when they like VB, that’s what they enjoy. If you enjoy a product that’s cheap, more power to ya, I can’t do it… We have slowly changed people and had a great influence.
What’s the next hot style?
Saison is it and the bit at the moment. Saison brings people back in from the crazy bitterness of IPA and gives something crisp and refreshing, it’s a really easy drinking beer. It’s very approachable too, where ever you are in terms of craft you can approach it. Its very versatile, interesting and delicate, being a ‘sessionable’ beer at the same time. Some of the best brewers in the world like Stillwater are playing around with funky yeasts and Saisons and coming up with amazing products. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes in terms of the larger beer market because it’s a fairly unknown style. I’ll be interested to see which big brewer comes up with the first Saison, who mass markets it.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Do you have time? (laughs) I’ve got a stupidly large fridge. Bier De Garde from Renaissance, Sauvin Nouveau from Garage Project, Death from Above, Pernicious Weed, Mecha Hop and Umami Monster, lots of Garage. Heretic Torment, Dogfish 90 minute, Dogfish Aprihop, Stone Levitation and Ruination, Ommegang Fire and Blood, I’ve still got a Millennium Falcon that I’m waiting to crack open. There’s always more, I always seem to put beers away and forget about them and try to find an occasion to drink them.
Whats your favourite food matching?
I always find Rodenbach Grand Cru and pork belly an amazing match. Perfect match. It’s always a matter of taste. The beer is about the occasion, it’s for the right reason. I’ve had times when I’ve had a beer which may not be the best but it was about the time and occasion. I was always the guy who liked the black jelly beans, so I was kinda a weirdo…
Favourite place for a drink?
Alehouse Project, always has the best list and it’s just a chilled place. There’s always beer industry guys hanging out there so as a beer nerd it’s very cool to cruise in to. It’s a total beer industry place and 12 taps, its huge. They don’t do every day beer, its nothing standard. They get the very limited release stuff and just everything interesting.
What do you think of the big brewers trying to crack the craft beer market? Do you think it has the potential to dent the craft niche?
In one way I love it, because I find it so humorous. They are trading off the idea the normal consumer isn’t smart enough to understand the difference. Which is hilarious because they’re basically saying their own consumers will have no idea. They will only keep their own market, they won’t necessarily touch the craft market because the craft consumer is more in the know. I find it humorous to watch them try to do craft and have no idea what their doing, it’s not enough to put galaxy hops in a beer! You have to know what your doing. I feel bad for the likes of Squires and Matilda Bay because they have great brewers but they are constrained, its unfortunate that they are put in a small bubble and have to brew in a certain way because that’s what their told to do. My other frustration was when Coke brought out Blue Moon, sold on the basis of being a craft beer even though they are owned by Coors. It’s unfair to primary producers who put in the hard yards and people like Coors try to capitalise on the good work they are doing. They are working hard and it frustrated me to no end. But I still think the consumer is smart enough to know the difference, never underestimate the consumer. Its a big community, new, different and early days but really refreshing and CUB don’t know how to combat it. I think Lion Nathan were clever in understanding it: when they took over Little Creatures/ White Rabbit they didn’t mess with it, they gave them more money. They are owned by a multi- national corporation but they are letting them still brew great product. They let them be their own entity. CUB tap control is a whole other issue, but I’m really looking forward to them being probed by the ACCC, that’ll be great. There has been a rapid decline in CUB product just in our shop, they’ve made their bed and now they’re lying in it.
If someone asked you to put a six pack together, what would you put in it?
How much money do they have? (laughs) 8 wired double coffee brown ale, the only beer to ever make me weep with happiness. Hitachino Nest Ancient Nipponia, Beer Here HopFix. BrewDog Punk IPA for sure, best session IPA in the world. Mountain Goat Hightail, the benchmark. I’d finish on Stillwater Why Can’t IBU, it just defies beer. So out of the ordinary and just incredible, the kind of beer you wish you could make as a home brewer.
For those that have not dropped by the shop:
Low Buy Liquor
Shop 13-14 Olive Tree Shopping Centre, 118 Main St Lilydale
Drop in and say hi to Ev and Chris and marvel at their Wall of Wonder….