With the yeast settled after another successful edition of the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, co-director Steve Jeffares has labelled the annual event the “best craft beer festival in Australia”.
His assertion was backed by a “record-breaking crowd” for the three-day gig (May 23-25) in which more than 12,000 people poured through the doors of the historical Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.
When asked to sum up his feelings about the latest instalment of GABS, Jeffares was beaming.
“Absolutely thrilled, “ he said. “I was more relaxed than at any other (previous GABS) event.”
Upon entering the grand structure for the opening session, it was immediately obvious there had been significant layout changes from 2013. These mainly affected the Dan Murphy’s Market Place – a showcase for breweries and other businesses – and Jeffares revealed the alterations were a deliberate move to create a better relationship between punter and brewer.
“The single biggest improvement was the layout,” he said.
“I really wanted people to engage with the stands (stallholders).
The GABS co-director said pre-festival much emphasis was placed on encouraging breweries to not only entice the public to their stands but earn repeat visits. This was achieved by way of meet-the-brewer opportunities, games and other interaction. And Jeffares was impressed with the outcome.
“A lot of the stands (breweries) this year really stepped it up,” he said.
“Those who took the bull by the horns reaped the benefits.”
This writer certainly made the most of the opportunity to chat to several stallholders and time and again was impressed with the interactive experience and obvious passion demonstrated by the brewers and associated staff.
While another wide assortment of unusual festival beers was on offer, Jeffares was quick to point out that the event was about showcasing unique brews not just quirky ones.
“There was a great mix of the weird and wonderful and beers for the less-brave consumer,” he said, adding that GABS aimed to not only challenge visitors, but also educate them in the process.
“We get tremendous satisfaction from people trying different beers.”
The vast array of entertainment was also marked down in the plus category for organisers. Jeffares said paddle races, paddle art competitions, table tennis and roving musical entertainment, among much more, all “helped to create a festive experience”.
As for the next installment of GABS, Jeffares was pleased to announce that any tinkering would be minimal.
“The list of things we need to improve on are virtually negligible,” he said.
Jeffares had previously stated to Australian Brews News that there had been discussion about expanding the event to other state capitals, and he said this was still on the agenda.
Another critical factor for the next offering was being able to accommodate growing interest. Jeffares said 10-15 new breweries had already indicated they wanted to be on board in 2015, and making more room for additional stallholders was likely to be one of the main challenges in the next 12 months.
Like a football coach who has more talent than available spots, this appears a good headache for organisers to have.