As the dust settles on Thursday night’s Australian International Beer Awards, yesterday the focus of Australia’s beer industry and Melbourne’s beer loving public turned to the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS).
While the AIBA Gala dinner honoured beers that had been judged in accordance to strict style guidelines and excellence of quality, GABS throws out the brewing rule book and celebrates the craft and enjoyment of beer. And everyone is invited to taste the creativity.
Held at the historic Royal Exhibition Centre in Carlton, the three day craft beer party, which is part of Melbourne’s Good Beer Week, opened its doors at midday yesterday. With five sessions available to attend, inside there is plenty of room for everyone to taste beers like that’ve never tasted before. It’s a beer lover’s lolly bag.
GABS features over 100 “Festival beers” that have either been brewed specifically for this event or will be available for the first time in Australia. Now in its fourth year, GABS encourages brewers to think outside the box and have some fun with their brewing. The result has been weird, wacky and opinion-dividing concoctions, including beers that have gone on to receive global acclaim.
In 2012 the Yeastie Boys from New Zealand created Gunnamatta, an Earl Grey tea leaf IPA. The beer is now the most popular product in their range, and was recently brewed on a very large scale in the United Kingdom following its success at the JD Wetherspoon festival.
Yeastie Boys return this year with their Brian Eno inspired ‘Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch’, a Mild Ale described as a “dark and sexy steamy south-east Asian Barbecue”. They are joined by numerous other brewers from New Zealand, along with a handful of highly regarded international craft beers who have been invited to be part of GABS. Wellington’s rock star brewers, the Garage Project, once again dominate a beer festival with their presence. Last year at NZ’s Beervana, their concert style stage towered over all overs. This year, you’ll find won’t be able to miss their comic book offerings.
Other beers that were conceived for GABS and are now successful products on Australia’s craft beer market in Feral Brewing’s Barrique Okarma, Two Birds Brewing Taco and the Holgate Brewhouse Empress.
Which beers will make a lasting impression on the beer world this year? Have your say by voting in the event’s People’s Choice award, to crown the favourite brew of GABS 2014.
Will it be the 2 Brothers ‘Crème Caramel’, the 4 Pines ‘Gin and Juice Snoop Dogg Tribute Ale’, the Barossa Valley Brewing ‘Sticky Nipple Stout’, NZ newcomers Panhead’s ‘Black Sabbath’, or maybe the HopDog BeerWorks ‘Brett the Bloody Orange’?
On Friday there were no signs of the queues and wait times that annoyed many at the 2012 GABS. This event is now a well-oiled machine, with bigger crowds easily accommodated and swiftly served through an army of volunteers. We’ll see how they hold up with the influx of drinkers during the most popular sessions today (Saturday).
The popular beer check-in smartphone app, Untappd, is receiving a hefty workout from inside GABS, as punters record and rate their beer drinking experience. Untappd has been integrated with the official GABS app, which leads a long list of beer festival innovation and unique initiatives that helps set GABS apart from the rest.
A glistening full size brewhouse dominates the middle of the Exhibition Centre. Around it you’ll find an exclusive cask ale bar, Morris Dancers, silent disco, Q&A sessions, and brewer battles in the Breweries Market Place. Get creative with your own beer paddle art. No one will be short of something to do. Take your half drunk glass of beer to the Stone & Wood caravan and they’ll rejuvenate the beer’s head with a poker.
Limited tickets remain to the final sessions today and tomorrow. The organisers recommend that you pre-purchase your tickets online through OzTix to ensure entry when you arrive.
We’ll see you there!