As summer approaches the streets are once again plastered with posters for another massive season of music festivals. Twenty years ago a mere handful of music festivals commanded the summer calendar. Livid, Big Day Out, Meredith and Homebake were at the forefront of an industry that now overflows with festivals catering for all music genres, demographics, budgets and locations all year round.
Summer remains the high season for a live music lover’s crusade and this year the festival circuit has a young rival for the attention and tastes of festival goers: the beer festival.
As recently as 2010, there was essentially only one large scale beer expo bringing together the nation’s brewers to perform for the masses. That event is now gone, but since then the craft beer industry has found a wealth of supporters keen to showcase Australia’s growing talent and diversity across all things beer.
Only two years later Australia has a summer full of outdoor festivals that are gathering an impressive line-up of brewers to showcase their classic brews and new releases. These festivals are starting to extend the traditional beer tasting event to a wider celebration of summer fun. Live music, gourmet food, arts, education and activities to entertain children are now essential elements of modern beer festivals.
The travelling roadshow concept utilised by promoters to stage music festivals in multiple locations is yet to enter the beer festival domain and is probably many years away from being considered. However, the sheer number of beer headlining open-air events on the horizon reveals that the festival formula is proving to be a hit with Aussie drinkers.
The returning Ballarat Beer Festival and the new Great Australian Beer Festival (GABF) in Geelong, both occurring at the start of next year, are leading the way in combing a showcase of craft beer with live music. Both festivals are boasting acclaimed artist of the caliber you would expect to find at the big name music festivals.
Both festivals are driven by experienced event organizers with strong connections to the local hospitality industry. Festival organizers, Kieran Blood and Michael Ward, have created GABF Geelong to help raise the profile of local beer amongst a population that is mostly yet to embrace craft beer.
“Our immediate goal is to increase awareness in Geelong and to give the consumer the opportunity to taste, then make an informed decision to buy locally and Australian made craft beers,” Kieran told Australian Brews News.
For their first staging of GABF, at the Geelong Racecourse in February 2013, they will be less concerned about differentiating themselves from the other beer festivals of the coming summer and focus more on the educational elements of beer, cider, beer and food, and home brewing.
Kieran explained the development of their festival plans.
“Our research has its roots in similar festivals in Victoria and interstate as well as the United States, which is probably close to 10 years ahead of us in the craft beer festival scene.
“But the most helpful source of information by far has been the brewers themselves, they are all amazing people eager to work together for the future of the Australian craft beer industry. Many similar festivals have a proven formula, and there is no need for us to change that too much.”
To help create the “right vibe”, GABF Geelong have secured Bob Evans (Jebediah frontman, Kevin Mitchell) to headline the entertainment.
“He definitely is a big drawcard,” noted Kieran.
“Michael Ward contacted him and he didn’t hesitate to be involved. Bob is popular in the Geelong region, having played in Geelong to large crowds in the past. We only have one other confirmed band at the moment, that being The Vaudeville Smash, a fun upbeat band that played at this year’s St Kilda Festival.”
Like our favourite music festivals, the beer festival offers a two-fold experience for everyone – the chance to indulge your fandom in the flesh, along with the opportunity to discover something new, all wrapped up in a harmonious crowd of fellow beer lovers.
These beer festivals may not yet match the scale and international involvement of the many music festivals that fill the 2012/2013 calendar, but their rapidly increasing number alone is proof of the demand for beer’s place on the summer social calendar.
Hot off the steam from the recent Trainworks Winter Beer Festival, the next six months will be a true test of the beer festival’s impact on Australia’s summer.
Over the last couple of years we witnessed something of a saturation point for music festivals, with several start-ups unable to return for a second or third year, as well as some mainstays of the festival scene also falling into an indefinite hiatus. Is this a cautionary tale for the emerging beer festival?
While the rapid rate at which new breweries are appearing, plus the even faster rate at which brewers are releasing new beers these days, potential saturation point for festivals is a long way off. However, providing a well executed event with a point a difference will be the key to establishing a Big Day Out reputation for the celebration of beer.
So what’s coming up?
6 October 2012: 2nd Annual Brew Mountains Beer and Cider Festival, Fairmont Resort, Leura NSW
13 October: Tasmanian Micro Brew Fest, Princess Shed Forecourt (Opposite to Salamanca), Hobart, TAS
27-28 October 2012: 8th Annual Australian Beer Festival, The Australian Hotel, Sydney NSW
3-4 November 2012: Bitter & Twisted International Boutique Beer Festival, Maitland NSW
17 November 2012: Beers By The Bay (Mornington Peninsula Craft Beer Festival), Mornington VIC
24-25 November 2012: Tasmanian International Beerfest, Hobart TAS
25 November 2012: 6th Annual Boutique Beer Festival, Warners At The Bay, Warners Bay NSW
13 October 2012: Sprung in the Alley, Swan Valley WA
18 & 19 January 2013: Tamar Valley Beer Festival, Launceston TAS
19 January 201: Ballarat Beer Festival, Ballarat VIC
2 February 2013: Great Australian Beer Festival, Geelong VIC
Whispers are also growing louder about another new beer festival in Melbourne next year, driven by the regions craft brewers. It is an exciting development for seasoned craft beer lovers as many of the festivals to date have been primarily coordinated by event focused organisers rather than the brewers themselves. Whilst always enthusiastic to facilitate the organisers of beer festivals, several local brewers have expressed a desire for more flexibility and a greater personal touch in the way they celebrate and share their beer.
Keep your eye on the Brews News calendar and Events pages for more news of upcoming beer festivals.
If you have news of a beer event or a festival you’d like to promote on the Brews News calendar, email: [email protected]