Hamilton Beer and Wine Co shifts to bright new city premises

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Hamilton Beer and Wine Co is open 10am-7pm Monday to Thursday, 10am-8pm Friday, 10am-7pm Saturday and 10am-6pm Sunday.

A bright new central city location for Hamilton Beer and Wine Co is paying off, with increased visibility and boosted foot traffic.

The Anglesea Street building, which opened for business on February 19, has a generous glass frontage with plenty of natural light, and well set-out floor space for its extensive range of wines and beers.

The move has brought them from their north Victoria Street location closer to the centre of town, and has enabled them to bring the warehouse on site, making life easier for store manager Chris Barclay and the team of about a dozen, including owner Geoff Henderson.

“I do think that we are far more visible here,” says Barclay. “We have bigger signage, we’re closer to the street, we see a lot more cars going past and we see foot traffic here, whereas at the old store we were a bit more isolated.

“We’ve had a few new faces come through. They’ve been walking past and come in and said, ‘oh, I’ve never seen you guys before,’ which is pretty exciting for us.”

It is the latest step in an impressive Hamilton journey that started in 1991, when Nick and Pauline Yeoman bought the Alma St Cellars before shifting five years later to Hood Street and then eight years ago to Victoria Street.

Barclay joined them soon after that shift, and Henderson bought the business a couple of years later.

Their continued growth saw them look around for new premises and Henderson was quick to see the possibilities of the former Collins Auto Electrical building near the central bus centre during a walkthrough late in 2017.

The company works with a lot of Hamilton restaurants and being able to bring the warehouse under the same roof saves considerable time.

Thrilled with their new premises at The Hamilton Beer & Wine Co, from left, Geoff Henderson, Allan Bremner, Agnieszka Plszewska, J.P Silva, Chris Barclay.

At the old store, they would have to be constantly on the phone to the warehouse in Frankton whereas now Barclay can just pop his head out the door to talk to the warehouse staff and sort a restaurant’s order on the spot or replenish their shelves.

The restaurant supply business includes smaller operators being able to drop in and top up on their way to work. “We love being able to offer that. The whole idea is we’re trying to help each other out.”

The new store features a large photograph running alongside much of one wall depicting a vineyard and an impressive array of craft beers on tap to fill not only bottles but also cans. They are one of only four New Zealand places that Barclay knows of with the equipment to fill a one litre can and then cap and seal it for customers so the beer keeps for longer.

The store also has a mezzanine level at the front, with floor to ceiling windows and a large television screen and camera, meaning the monthly tasting sessions can include growers from around the world Skyped in to talk about their product. A separate whisky lounge is also being created. They hold monthly Beer Clubs as well as wine tastings, and their Friday Night Highlights involves opening half a dozen wine bottles to share with whoever walks in.

The shift was made by the hard-working staff themselves – in just two days, and with the loss of only two bottles.

“As soon as we started getting bottles on shelves, it started to feel like a wine store again,” Barclay says. “That was really one of those times where you just feel excited about what’s coming.”

The fruits of their labour are now displayed around the generous store floor, including an increasing range of bottles from smaller producers.

“The trend seems to be getting into more artisanal products,” Barclay says. “Craft beer and smaller boutique vineyards, rather than big names, seems to be an interest.”

He says natural wines are also finding favour. “People are going back to the roots – that whole idea of, don’t add anything and don’t take anything away. An expression of place seems to be quite a big thing.”

He says in the past when they set up an alternative white wine section in the old store it was almost forgotten about. “Now I’m seeing more and more people open to it. It’s quite exciting for us.

“For me the most exciting thing is to see that it’s getting more varied.”

When it comes to craft beers, he says hazy IPAs still hold sway in a trend that started last year.

Whatever the next trends are, the Hamilton Beer and Wine Co will be there to meet demand.

“That’s something we’ve worked hard on. Geoff and I love the idea of being staunchly independent. We really try to react to what our customers want.”

As for Barclay, his tipple of the moment at the end of a long hot summer is gin and tonic. “A hot sunny day, a crisp G&T.” Specifically, and appropriately for a former chef who believes in quality over quantity, that means Juno gin from New Plymouth, served with a slice of orange and some Thai basil from the garden.

One of the more intriguing features of Hamilton Beer and Wine Co’s new store is some large lettering on an inside wall, which reads: “Est! Est!! Est!!!”

That touch comes from a story that owner Geoff Henderson’s mother heard while on a trip through Italy.

It’s a good story, worth retelling in store manager Chris Barclay’s words: “Back in Roman times there was a bishop who was travelling through Italy, planning a trip for the Pope. He would go around all the different wineries and check that it was going to be good enough for the Pope coming through. If it was good enough he would write an “est” on the front of their door in chalk and that meant the guys from the Pope’s party knew to go there. if it was really good they would get two ests and if they were life-changing they would get three ests, and apparently there was one particular area in italy which has such a massive amount of these three est wineries that this bishop basically decided to give up his journey and he just stayed living there for the rest of his life.”

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