TY Burford wheels away on his heels into the newly-refurbished Prince of Merewether bottle shop. "I don't know about you, but I need a drink," the hotel owner says. And this is before the COVID-19 virus reared its ugly head.
"My favourite fridge at the moment is the one with all the sour beers in it," he continues. "I can't get enough of them."
For enthusiastic drinkers, who appreciate and respect the magic of fermentation and the myriad of flavours this process can conjure up, a bottle shop is like a book shop.
A refuge from the outside world. A place to slow down, pace and peruse thorough seemingly endless shelves stocked with bottled and canned adventure. A grown-up cave of wonders stocked with all things designed to turn innocuous day-to-day moments into celebrated memories, particularly when shared with friends and family.
"We've recently finished our renovations. Now, we want to push the boundaries and nudge our customers into tasting and trying something different," new bottle shop manager Dan Williams says. "We're all about celebrating the craft, whether that's brewing, winemaking, or distilling, by bringing the very best examples we can find, both locally and internationally to share with our customers."
The completion of the Prince's recent renovations has been a long time coming - the food, now, is outstanding with ex-Muse Kitchen chef Sean Townsend on the pans - but, the overhaul of the bottle shop, just next door, has been coming even longer. Avid readers of the Weekender's beer column will be delighted to know that the majority of beers reviewed are often found on The Prince's bottle shop shelves.
The range of booze available at The Prince has always been good, but now that Williams has taken over the reins, the scope of drink has gone from good to great, to even nudging brilliant.
There's some 500 beers, ranging from places like our own backyard to all around the world, 1000 different wines and over 300 spirits to peruse, from whisky to gin.
"We want to have as broad a range as possible, so that everyone's tastes are taken care of; from the sourest sour beers, to the most buttery of chardonnay's, and freshest reds, and lots of whisky too," Williams says. "It's as much about giving our customers what they want, as it is about us nudging them towards something different."
Interestingly, Williams reckons that chardonnay is by far the most popular wine he stocks. Not semillon? Not sauvignon blanc?
"Nope. We have two whole fridges dedicated to chardonnay," he says. "I think people would be surprised with how different chardys are these days; they're much leaner and fresher, but, you can still find the odd old-school and buttery ones too; Scarborough Chardonnay is a great seller, it's a classic."
Other local tipples Burford and Williams are keen on, include local breweries, like FogHorn, Styx, and Cattleyard, and The Farmer's Wife's increasingly popular gin.
"That Autumn Dry Gin flies off the shelves," Williams says. "Most of our gins do, to be fair. My favourite, though, is the whisky wall."
Burford agrees. "When we did the refurb, we were trying to figure out what we were going to do with this big window that was there at the front, and Dan kept saying how much he'd love a wall full of great whiskies from around the world. Eventually he wore me down and got his way."
"I bloody love that wall," Williams declares. "We've got whiskies there that'll be familiar to most people, but, occasionally, we'll get in some super rare bottles, like only one-in-the-whole-country type of thing. Spirits have become a real focus for us."
Fervent fans of the fermentation method rejoice. This is the kind of real liquidity required to keep us all slaked, merry and satisfied during these strange times.