Balla-arat is the native word for elbow-place and on Sat 21st Jan 2012, City Oval Ballarat was home to a lot of elbow bending as copious amounts of beer, wine, food, and music were enjoyed by a sell-out capacity crowd of more than 5,000.
City Oval Ballarat is situated on top of the old Royal Saxon deep gold mine that 160 years ago was part of the gold rush was the lifeblood to this city. Last Saturday, under a golden sunshine plenty of liquid gold – as well as burnished amber and coal black – were enjoyed by a receptive crowd.
Set up to cater for a broad audience, the inaugural Ballarat Beer festival achieved its organisers’ aims with a family friendly kids’ zone complete with a jumping castle, face painting, kids shows, and fairy floss. Alongside was a wonderful laneway of gourmet food including such tasty delights as paella, Vietnamese, seafood BBQ and oysters, gourmet pies and Timboon ice cream.
Oh, and there was some great craft beer and independent wine to enjoy as well. More than 20 tents pouring in excess of 100 beers, most of them fresh draught craft from a multitude of innovative dispense systems, with the locally brewed Red Duck possibly holding the longest steady queue throughout the day. Who said all beer drinkers are known to be partial to their local favourite?
With 5 tokens and a sampling glass complete with handy lanyard and clip on/clip off holder, this drinker enjoyed a Summer IPA from Bridge Road Brewers, Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale (during a blind taste testing on stage), True South Summer Ale & Little Miss Muffet Cider and Mornington Peninsula Sorachi Kolsch and finished with a Pizzini Sangiovese for the road.
It was hard to pick any holes in the day and given it was the first year of the festival this is bound to become a regular fixture on the craft calendar for Victorians and further afield to flock to Ballarat.
It was pleasing to see a community come together to support such a welcoming event to visitors and locals alike and the presence of the friendly local BBF t-shirted staff and volunteers many carrying sunscreen for the unprepared was testament to the golden warm welcome Ballarat gave to one and all on this sunshiny summers day in January.
It was an excellent start to the 2012 beer year and this reviewer now looks forward to the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular in May in the Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton, not to mention Good Beer Week and all its festivities. It feels like it’s back to the future for Australian beer right now as communities come together to support their recently opened craft breweries just like they used to back in those gold rush days of the mid to late 1800s.