Fyshwick is synonymous with furniture stores, car yards, warehouses and, of late, some very good eats from some of the city’s best cafes.
In amongst it all, just off bustling Barrier Street, Quizzic Alley is tucked up in a quiet strip, brewing a little bit of magic by bringing the world of Harry Potter to life. Sensationally merchandised with Australia’s largest range of official Harry Potter wares, the store oozes charm, mystery and fun, bringing a little bit of Diagon Alley to Pirie Street.
Quizzic Alley is the brainchild of Paralympian and dedicated Potterhead Michael Milton and marketing guru Penni Milton, known instore as Nearly Legless Mick and Professor Penelope Presto.
“The store opened just over two years ago and has since welcomed thousands of Harry Potter fans from all over Australia and, before the dark forces (COVID-19) arrived, the world! The witches and wizards who work at Quizzic Alley are among the biggest Potter nerds I could recruit, and they LOVE meeting their own kind. It would be Sirius-ly Ron not to visit because it is ravenclawesome!” Michael said.
The store is as close as I am getting to a theme park for quite some time and as a Harry Potter fan myself back in the day, reading the books, watching the movies and seeing the play with my daughter, browsing the shelves is a delight. They are brimming with all manner of wizarding wares from spellbooks, wands, costumes and charm pins to books, board games, broomsticks and plush Hedwigs.
As always, the primary reason for my visit is the food, and I am here to quaff a QBrew. It is the shop’s take on Butterbeer, the beloved drink in the book the characters enjoy when they visit ‘The Three Broomsticks’ and ‘Hog’s Head Pub.’
JK Rowling gives surprisingly little detail about how Butterbeer tastes or how it is brewed, explained Michael.
“When creating Quizzic Alley’s own non-alcoholic version called QBrew we, of course, referred to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry tastes his very first butterbeer, describing it as ‘the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside’.
“But there is no real description of what it actually tastes like,” said Mick.
“It’s obviously a warm drink, but that’s not going to work that well in Australia. We knew it had to be cold and probably fizzy and with cream on top. We experimented a lot with the kids around the dinner table, which was a lot of fun, but we couldn’t really nail a flavour that was unique.”
Wanting to get the flavour just right, the team enlisted the help of a professional.
“Luckily, we found a wizard to help. He was like an apothecary, mixing substances and flavours in a back room and creating magic from vague descriptions. He presented a few different versions, and we chose the one we liked best.” Michael said.
“The apothecary confirmed that the drink was gluten-free but, apart from that, we have no clue what’s in it. Eye of newt, hair of dragon … I have no idea. So far, no one’s been ill or grown a tail. I just know it tastes delicious, and we get rave reviews from lots of customers.”
QBrew is unique to Quizzic Alley, their loving interpretation of the scant details in the book. You place an order at the front counter and when it is ready, they bring it out to you to enjoy while browsing through the store. It is impressively served in a custom-made dimpled beer stein with a handle topped with whipped cream and a little spoon.
The taste is both familiar and perplexing. Part of the fun of the experience is trying to pick out the ingredients in the magical concoction. I couldn’t quite place all of them, but I definitely got fizzy hints of creaming soda with the sweetness of butterscotch.
Along with the drink, there is a trolley full of sweet treats just like on the magical train ride to Hogwarts – the ‘highlight’ being Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. The jellybeans include good and bad flavours, including vomit, rotten egg and earwax.
Quizzic Alley is located at 5 Pirie St, Fyshwick and is open Wednesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm and Saturday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.