A liquor chain dedicated to craft beer has opened its first store and plans to open a dozen more throughout the country.
Bottle Stop, which has a selection of more than 300 craft beers, opened its first store in Grey Lynn, Auckland, last Thursday.
Founded by self-proclaimed craft beer aficionado Rich Yong, the craft beer retailer is looking to open two more Auckland stores before expanding to the regions.
"I'm hoping if this one goes well that within the next year to 18 months I'd like to open a second shop. It will likely be another one in Auckland or outside Auckland - I'm still yet to decide, but ideally I could do at least two in Auckland one in the North Shore and perhaps another around Mt Eden," Yong said.
"After that, I can see it expanding to some of the more major cities around the country like Hamilton, Tauranga or Mt Maunganui, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown."
Within the next five to six years, Yong hopes to have at least eight stores.
Yong was inspired to open a space dedicated to craft beer after he returned to New Zealand from living in London for 16 years to find there were no specialist stores dedicated to the expanding craft beer category.
"I came back here for a holiday three years ago and I went looking for a craft beer shop in Auckland to go buy some beers and I couldn't find one, and I did some research and found out that one didn't exist and I was like 'Ok, where do I go to buy some craft beer'," Yong said.
"After I left, I thought there was a good opportunity here and I was hoping that by the time I move back no one else had done it."
West Auckland-born Yong moved back in October last year and started working at brewing company Garage Project as their export sales manager.
"I got made redundant about three months ago and that's when I decided that it was now or never to do this business idea," he said.
All up it took five months and $100,000 to get the business up and running.
While in the UK, Young was working for Camden Town Brewery, a pioneering craft brewery in London. One of those stores, Clapton Craft, inspired him to open Bottle Stop.
Yong has tried about 80 per cent of all the beers in his store, and said choosing what beers to stock in the fridges has been the hardest part.
"I want to take snobbery away from craft beer, which can creep in sometimes," he said.
"You go anywhere now in New Zealand, and there's craft beer everywhere, it's probably harder going into a bar to find a standard beer... with the quality of New Zealand beer and New Zealand breweries there's definitely a [growing] market there.
"People are now looking for a beer that's not just your fizzy bland lager."
Close to half a million Kiwis call craft beer their preferred drink — an increase of 18 per cent on last year, according to figures from Nielsen.
Beer sales generated $379 million in the 16 weeks of summer, up six per cent or $21.3m on last summer, with $243m of that spent on premium beers, including craft.
Bottle Stop is gearing up to launch "Beer 101" workshops - once Yong gets his alcohol on-licence - to teach people about craft beer and different brew blends.
"I wanted to twist the standard store concept by having an on-premise experience, with getting an on-licence so people could drink on site as well as takeaway."