Innovation key to making the cut in new era of craft beer
Innovative brews using all manner of ingredients from figs and fennel to strawberry jelly are forging a new era in the craft beer industry – and an event started by two Aussie mates over a few ‘pints’ is helping drive it down under.
The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) is an annual festival for the discerning craft beer enthusiast, where around 120 creative and modern artisan brews are made specifically for the event with nothing off limits on the ingredient list.
This year’s event will see brews incorporating peanut butter, rice, spiced rocket leaves, blueberries and apricots and toasted coconut; all released for the first time at GABS and served from shipping containers converted into bars inside Melbourne’s historical Royal Exhibition Building.
Held from 23 to 25 May in 2014, as part of Good Beer Week, the event is expected to attract around 12,000 people, and will feature more than 250 beers from 130 breweries over three days, as well as a gourmet street food, a fromagerie, live entertainment, brewery and industry stands and free educational seminars.
A strong contingent of Australian breweries will be showcased including 2013 Australian Champion Brewery Feral Brewing (WA), Stone & Wood Brewing (NSW) and Bright Brewery (VIC) while growing international interest will see some of the most acclaimed breweries from around the world participating, including Sierra Nevada Brewing Co (USA), Mikkeller and To’ol (Denmark), Garage Project (NZ), Nøgne Ø (Norway) and Stillwater Brewery (USA)
GABS co-founder Steve Jeffares, says he and business partner Guy Greenstone (who own the multi-award winning Local Taphouse specialist beer pubs) launched the event three years ago as a way to celebrate the unusual brewing processes and creativity.
“We could see globally, and from our own experience at our venues, the phenomenal growth in not just creative brews, but brewing techniques taking place, where brewers were using things like bourbon and wine barrels … we wanted to give beer enthusiasts the chance to not only interact and engage with these brewers, but try these unique brews all under one roof.”
Guy says GABS also gives the smaller brewers a real platform to demonstrate what they are capable of.
“Depending on the popularity of the brew, GABS provides an opportunity to then turn these one-off brews into an ongoing product, which has happened to many of the breweries who have attended the event including Kiwis Yeastie Boys who won ‘People’s Choice Award’ for their tea infused India Pale Ale in 2012 which is now their biggest selling beer.”
And he says there’s no limit to what people create.
“We’ve seen oak aged American stout with orange zest and espresso, a white chocolate and raspberry pilsner, tropical orange coconut porter and hoppy wheat beer with corn and coriander leaf and lime … beetroot, berries or bananas .. it’s all been used in creating quirky and creative brews – we even had a beer made using a Christmas tree one year.”
Craft Beer Industry Association chair Dave Bonighton says this is where GABS really comes into its own.
“We’re seeing about 15 per cent growth year on year in the craft beer industry and that’s driven by consumer interest in the creative side of craft beer. It’s a really important part of the industry and that’s where GABS plays a key role – by celebrating and promoting those brewers and their creations – there’s no doubt that is helping drive industry growth.”
So what does the future hold for the industry?
“We’re only just getting started here in Australia” says Jeffares.
“There are really exciting times ahead, and there’s never been a better time for micro breweries to jump right in there and make a name for themselves.
Tickets are on sale from March 12 via: http://gabsfestival.com.au