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Live from GABS

May 12, 2012

Banner for GABS 2012


Image of writer James DavidsonJames Davidson reports live from the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building on Saturday May 12th, 2012.

Visit here from 11:00am on Saturday for regular updates, photos, interviews and conversation from inside GABS as 60 brand new craft beers from Australia and New Zealand are showcased in a festive beer hall atmosphere for everyone to share.

This page was updated live from the event.



It’s past 4:00pm and the ‘Last Drinks’ bell has rung. Wow, time flew by this afternoon here at GABS. That can only mean one thing…a good time!

The queues for the bars have been very long at times. Some punters have had to wait 45 minutes in line between beers, but it is something that the organisers have noticed and are working on to improve. The diverse crowd actually seems to be dealing with the long waits very well, as they all develop their own strategies to combat the long lines. After 3:30pm the lines did ease up and soon were much shorter, everything is moving quite well.

I keep hearing the word “impressive” used around GABS today, as people describe both the beers and the event. The beers may be dividing some punters, but right now I see a sea of endless smiles and conversation filling the Royal Exhibition Centre.

From those I have spoken to, the beers which are proving the clear stand-out beers of this GABS session are:

  • Renaissance ‘Stonecutter Oak’
  • Bridge Road Brewers ‘God Save the Lager’
  • Feral Brewing ‘Watermelon Warhead’
  • Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’

Overall, GABS has been an enjoyable and very well managed showcase of craft beer.  Time for me to wrap-up this live update post, as my laptop and phone battery die.

The day lives on with another GABS session tonight. Check out our Facebook page for the photo gallery.

More reports from the Brews News team will be posted over the coming week. Cheers!


1:00pm The doors opened a little early to allow the large waiting crowed to neatly file in and ready them for the opening bell of the GABS Saturday afternoon session.

That bell was rung by Steve Jeffares right on midday and the beers of the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular were flowing once again.

With copious amounts of tables surrounding the bars, there is room for everyone to sit and drink their way through some very diverse beer tasters. The spacious set up of the Royal Exhibition Building is allowing for easy movement around the beer hall.

The lines for beer around the bars may seem long, but they move fast and efficiently.

The crowd is full of familiar faces from the beer industry. Brewers, bar owners and beer writers are mingling inconspicuously with the average punters, enjoying the atmosphere.

Drinkers are snapping funny photos whilst others pay studious attention to which beers they should try next.

It’s certainly a festival fun vibe hear at GABS.

GABS 002


Quick Q&A with Andrew “AG Gow”, head brewer at Mornington Peninsula Brewery:

Q: Favourite GABS beer so far?

A: “the Liberty Brewing Simcoe Imperial IPA”

Q: What has been the best or worst feedback about your “Grouch” Imperial American Amber Ale?

A: “Best – People actually find it more-ish for such a big beer (8% abv).”

Q: In one line, your thoughts on GABS 2012?

A: “For a brewery or any beer person this is just a fantastic place to be this weekend”


11:00am and it’s a beautiful sunny morning in Melbourne. All is quiet out front of the Royal Exhibition Centre at the moment but within an hour this place will be overflowing with punters ready to experience the newest craft beers from Australia and New Zealand. Many will be returning for a second taste after the success of yesterday’s first two sessions.

I caught up with event organiser Steve Jeffares of The Local Taphouse.

Whilst some criticism of the event appeared across social media yesterday, day one was a resounding success and the organisers are listening to any problems that need to be addressed.

“The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly fantastic”, noted Steve. “We’re learning quickly as we go, but it’s like putting on a big concert or festival, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t totally like it. The vast majority are having a great time.”

A small number of complaints were aired about the cost of the event, but the organiser are keen to assure all comers that they have done everything to make the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular a comparable event to any other exhibition held across Australia.

“Our tickets are only $5 more than the recently Ballarat Beer Festival, we have a magnificent building, we’ve employed 200 staff, this thing couldn’t happen without the ticket price. There are the expenses of items like the tasting paddles and those two massive container bars which we have bought.”

Steve clarified, “the brewers have set the prices for their beers, we are only charging exactly what they charged us. We’re probably not going to make any money this year. Our houses are on the line here!”

The key factor is that those behind GABS are listening to the punters and taking constructive critisim onboard. For example. a problem was noted early with punters unable to buy individual tasting tokens, leaving some people unable to reclaim the full value of the tokens purchased. This has now been changed to allow single token sales, which is also available through the roaming token sellers.

Interest in the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular is spreading far and wide with Korean TV news heading in to film tonight. 2800 people passed through the doors yesterday and 6000 are expected across the two sessions today.

This is only year one for GABS and the future is very bright. This is exciting for beer and for Melbourne.


About the SpecTAPular

The Local Taphouse began their seasonal beer festivals, known as “SpecTAPulars”, in June 2008. That first SpecTAPular was held on a wet Sunday afternoon at the St Kilda bar and featured 40 different Australian breweries who had provided one keg each. The event was a success and since then the themed SpecTAPulars have grown steadily in popularity and size, as they Taphouse crew refined their beer festival capabilities and credentials.

This year the SpecTAPular has taken a giant leap forward. Every aspect of the SpecTAPular has been turned up to 11, creating a 3 day celebration of Australasian beer to help launch the 2012 Good Beer Week.

60 breweries from Australia and New Zealand, small and large, have each especially brewed and supplied for GABS around 20-30 kegs each of a unique beer.  These beers will be combined with food and entertainment for a 3 day event unlike any seen in Australia before.



Don’t forget to visit our Brews News Facebook Page and Twitter feed for more live news and photos from GABS.

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