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TheWiggman

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I've noticed there's no specific topic for this franchise and thought it's worth some discussion.
I live in Orange and my nearest home brew store is Bathurst. I'd seen their web site before and hadn't ordered anything, but local brewers here use it exclusively. I went there early last year on my venture into kegging and set myself up with a few things. Here are the pros and cons from my point of view.

Pros
  • Recipes - They have a good range of different recipes that mostly consist of a K&K with some packaged grains (in 150g, 250g, 500g etc. increments), hops and sometimes yeast. I've heard good feedback about them and I can say their Fat Yak clone wasn't bad. At $40 they're affordable.
  • Moderate range - They don't have the extensive range like the big players but have most stuff. The premilled grain pack range is much better than the sack range. The range of tin extracts however is very good, and is as broad as any homebrew store I've seen. The Wal's cans (in-house extract) come with hops in the tin and like the malt, come out of one of the big players' factories.
  • Keg swap - There's obviously a deal with Keg King as I bought a 2.6kg cylinder and get refills for $35 by memory. Walk in, hand in cylinder, $25 later you walk out with a full one. They've always been in top nick.
  • Non-brewing - They have an excellent range of cultures for cheese and have sausage making, cider kits, distilling gear and chocolate kits.
  • Sacks of grain - They have a reasonable range of grain sacks but I can order in 25kg unmilled local and imported grain and don't have to pay postage. In Bathurst they don't stock it, but if I call up on a Saturday they get a delivery next Thursday. Works for me, and considering I don't have an alternative the price works out well. The major warehouse is near Sydney somewhere for NSW suppliers at least.
  • Pre-milled grains - See below...
  • Service - At Orange at least. Brian has a quiet online presence and frequents this site. He did an order for me after a phone call and PM. Apparently he's also a very good brewer and willing to hand out a sample for interested customers. He does know his stuff.
Cons
  • Price - Their prices aren't very competitive. A Cooper PA tin costs $20.50 for example. Liquid yeast $13.50. Joe White 25kg ale $60. Not unreasonable (well maybe the Coopers tin...), but not cheap.
  • Pre-milled grains - I asked for about 10 different grain packs for a few recipes lined up (in 1kg, 500g, 150g packs etc) and was told that provided the warehouse was informed, they won't mill them. This was wrong. All their grains except 25kg sacks are milled. This is great for K&K and extract brewers but not favourable for me.
  • Grains by the pack - Excluding 25kg sacks, grains come in specific sizes. I can't get 200g of caramunich, I need to buy 2 x 150g packs or a single 500g.
  • Liquid yeast in-store - Understandable. Not everyone deals with liquid yeast so it needs to be ordered in. The range is good though.
  • Pre-packaged hops - Probably my biggest gripe. 'Bulk' hops are packaged in 60g bags and are $9 across the board. Otherwise they come in 12g packs.
I was hesitant to shop there to start with, but after deciding to buy a mill and realising they stock most of the grains I will need, the trip to Bathurst saves a lot of money in postage in the long run. Plus, they're be there when I need them - especially for the CO2. Brian has sold the shop and new owners will take over later in the year, so hopefully they will carry the flame and keep the place going for us Central West folk. I will continue to shop there that's for sure, but still will need to order in some specialty malts (like roast barley) and the occasional exotic hops. Or hops, full stop.

Share your experiences for those interested.
 

calobes

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I shop at Country Brewer alot. The owner at my local is a friendly and helpful guy always keen to chat and share his expertise, thats what keeps me coming back really. Especially being a newb, he is always keen to show me money saving tips and tricks even though it costs him money in the long run. Has some tasty brews on tap too :icon_drool2:

I'm not a fan of their hop range (or package sizing for that matter), fairly limited I reckon and I hate having to order them in and wait. I'd like to see some other brands in there too, not just the country brewer LDME etc. What they do have though seems to be always stocked full. Generally though I walk out with what I need, wallet being a fair bit lighter :p

I'll keep shopping there for sure.
 

sp0rk

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TheWiggman said:
Cons
  • Joe White 25kg ale $60
Agree with everything but this, $60 ($54 really if you count the 10% back into your club account) is the cheapest I've seen it in any HBS I've purchased from, and only $2.78 more expensive than 25kg of MEU Ale from MHB
 

TheWiggman

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Fair enough. Can you elaborate on the club account? Can't see any info on it on the website.
 

Dave70

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Was at my local CB shop Saturday as I needed some DME in a hurry. The time before, because I broke another hydrometer. And the time before that, a sachet SO4.
Pretty much the tone of my dealings with them.
Ian seems a nice enough bloke and is always helpful as he can be, but the thrust of the business seems to be a fairly even split of distilling, cheese making, smoking meats, coffee making, and brewing (kit, more than Ag). Fair enough.
But as I don't mill my own grain, nor am I a prolific brewer, Absolute is my preferred supplier. I don't want to have to buy a bag of black patent when I only need 30g of it. Plus Pat gives me beer when its on tap..
Only problem is its an hour round trip to his shop and half that to CB.
The account thingie normally see's my bill rounded down to a couple of bucks. Cant complain.
 

sp0rk

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TheWiggman said:
Fair enough. Can you elaborate on the club account? Can't see any info on it on the website.
Yeah, I don't think I've seen anything about it on their site either
Next time you go in ask about their club accounts, should get you 10% of your spend back into your account with every purchase
 

mosto

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Brian's always been very helpful to me at the Bathurst store. I'm in Manildra, so another half an hour further away than Orange. I email through an order when I need to re-stock on base malt and pick up whatever odds and ends I think I may need in the foreseeable future. Also go for a run when I need my CO2 swapped over. SWMBO is doing a part time uni degree through CSU at Bathurst so often get here to pick up an order when she's there for res schools :D. However, if I need something in between those times, or want something they don't stock, I usually order online through The Brew Shop
 

Weizguy

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The East Maitland store is fairly new, but seems fully stocked with a variety of craft and hobby food-making supplies.

I can only talk about my own shopping, and that is the out-of-date (Feb 2014 expiry) can of Canadian Blonde lager concentrate I bought in June.
I will be more careful next time.

Not holding that against them. I was in a hurry, and didn't think that it would be stale goods. I shouldn't fall for that ploy again. Not sure if they stocked the new shop with old stock, but again - The buyer should be aware!

I have heard no other complaints
 

Bribie G

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The East Maitland store is very tidy and well stocked. Basic range of hops and dried yeasts, I see they are getting in a few Wyeast as well. They are a godsend for me ... several times I rocked up to MHB and he was out of sacks. Country Brewer is only a ten minute diversion off the highway from Hexham when I'm down that way in the car and Digger is keen to increase AG sales and will get you sacks, at a very good price as Spork pointed out. They are also open till 2 pm Saturday

When I dropped in there to pick my sacks up, there were about a dozen sacks near the door with names on them, so obviously local AG brewers are cottoning on to the store. Open till 2 pm on Saturdays. I also note there's a CB at Thornleigh near Hornsby, so that outer Northern area is well covered nowadays and not too far from either end of the Central Coast.

Edit: is Armstrong still in charge of the show? Would be good to see some of the CB franchisees on AHB (if not already) where we can learn 'em some AG skills B)
 

mr_wibble

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I goto one as my LHBS.

Owner is great, mills my grain, answers my questions etc.

Some malts he can't get (e.g.: rye) but he has 98% of what I want usually.

The price difference is not dramatic IMHO, and I get my monies worth in Q&A for sure.
 

nifty

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mosto said:
Brian's always been very helpful to me at the Bathurst store. I'm in Manildra, so another half an hour further away than Orange. I email through an order when I need to re-stock on base malt and pick up whatever odds and ends I think I may need in the foreseeable future. Also go for a run when I need my CO2 swapped over. SWMBO is doing a part time uni degree through CSU at Bathurst so often get here to pick up an order when she's there for res schools :D. However, if I need something in between those times, or want something they don't stock, I usually order online through The Brew Shop
If I remember correctly, Brian used to post here as Lagerman and used to run the Bathurst and NSW homebrew comps.
 

TheWiggman

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nifty said:
If I remember correctly, Brian used to post here as Lagerman and used to run the Bathurst and NSW homebrew comps.
He doesn't post any more but he will reply to PMs (yes, he's Lagerman)
 

TheWiggman

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Regarding club account, I went there last weekend and asked. Turns out I had $28 in credit. Walked out of there with some yeast and 2 packs of malt without handing over a cent. Booya.
 

sp0rk

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Yeah, I try not to touch my store credit for as long as possible
Then when Mrs sp0rk says I'm not allowed to buy any more brewing stuff for a while, I go in and use my store credit :lol:
 

blotto

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Costs me $14 for a smack pack over here in WA if I walk straight into the shop. Otherwise Nev does great deals I just have to think ahead.
 

zooesk

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I have been using the online store I live between Bathurst and kings wood both Brian and Gay, and Dee have been a great help to me but it's cheaper to pay postage then petrol. The last few times they have been good put order in Tuesday receive Thursday Friday latest so I have been getting adventurous ordering liquid yeast. Last one I got in time this one I put order in Tuesday and they never posted till Thursday so now is sitting in some post office over the weekend not much I can do about it now
 

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