Australia’s most audacious beer festival, GABS Beer Cider & Food Fest has been sold to Sydney-based South African marketing and events entrepreneur Mike Bray.
Announcing the sale to 5th Avenue Investment Group, event co-founder Steve Jeffares said he had been approached by Bray earlier this year.
Mike approached me on Linked In six or seven months ago wanting to have a chat,” Jeffares said.
“We’d been approached by a number of organisations in the past and ultimately felt they wouldn’t have the best interests of our little baby at heart.
“But Mike, over a period of six or seven months of getting to know him, we feel very confident that the legacy of the event is really important to him.”
Jeffares said the sale sees both the festival and the Hottest 100 craft beer poll change hands is effective immediately. Current festival director Craig Williams and Event Manager Ruta Marcinkus will stay with the business post sale.
“Craig came on when we were at breaking point and he was an incredible addition to our team and enabled us to juggle all the things we were,” Jeffares said.
“He has commited to stay on and he and Mike will be working side-by-side along with Ruta to continue what we started.
“They fully understand ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and have no plans to make significant changes.”
The move allows Jeffares and co-founder Guy Greenstone focus on their expanding brewery business, Stomping Ground , which has this year announced two new brewery locations, including one at Melbourne Airport.
The sale price was not disclosed.
“We’re not allowed to disclose that, not unreasonably,” Jeffares said.
“We are happy with it, we feel it’s a reasonable reward for our efforts.”
“Not many people know that GABS over a number of years, particularly the first five years, almost bankrupted us, so we feel it’s a reasonable return on investment is the best way to explain it.
“That’s not the fundamental reason we have done this, it’s really because I have for a few years struggled to see the event meet the hopes we had for it in terms of expanding and meeting the overseas opporunities beyond New Zealand.
“We like to be hands on even with a great team and that has been increasingly difficult with what Stomping Ground has onand acheieving what we would like with GABS.”
GABS, which has events in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and this year Brisbane, began as a regular event at Jeffares and Greenstone’s St Kilda craft beer pub The Local Taphouse and grew fuelled by their vision.
“It’s surreal,” Jeffares told Brews News. “When the event sold out at the Local Taphouse all those years ago, we were looking for ways to take our love of craft beer to a greater number of people than the four walls of the Taphouse could accomodate.”
As the Taphouse expanded to Sydney, so did their event with the events drawing huge crowds.
“We’d been looking for an idea and had the idea of inviting 20 if theleading brewers in Australia to brew a special beer for the event and that clearly got a lot of people excited,” Jeffares explained.
“There were queues out the door for hours.
“I was at the Sydney event and Guy was in Melbourne and we rang each other and said ‘this is amazing’,” Jeffares said of the experience.
“It was a lightbulb moment and potentially one that we felt we could hang our idea of creating a a bigger event.”
This is a breaking announcement, more to come.
Media Release | GABS looks to exciting future with new owners
Renowned as one of the leading craft beer festivals in Australia and New Zealand, GABS Beer, Cider & Food Fest has today been acquired by media and marketing entrepreneur Mike Bray and 5th Avenue Investment Group.
Since launched in 2011 at The Local Taphouse bars in Melbourne and Sydney by founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone, the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular has grown alongside the booming craft beer industry and consistently ranks as the country’s favourite festival in craft beer consumer surveys. As Jeffares reflects, “Over the last decade, we’ve worked hard with a fantastic team to create a truly unique and innovative festival experience, showcasing the creativity of breweries with more than a thousand ‘Festival Beers & Ciders’ launched for the first time at GABS. In that time, more than 210,000 people, many new to craft beer, have attended our events in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. We’re thrilled to now pass the baton to Mike and his team, ably led by long time Event Director Craig Williams, and look forward to seeing them taking GABS to even greater heights.”
5th Avenue are a small team with a passion for craft beer, who come into the business with a strong background in marketing and events. Mike Bray has been appointed as Managing Director of SpecTAPular Enterprises Pty Ltd, and Craig Williams, having led the business since 2017, remains as Event Director.
Bray’s entrepreneurial background has seen him found highly successful marketing and media businesses, and work with some of the biggest lifestyle brands in the world. “It’s an honour to join the team as GABS prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary in Melbourne,” says Bray. “We are extremely excited to continue Steve and Guy’s original vision to become one of the best beer festivals in the world. For us, GABS is about sharing our love of craft beer and cider with as many people as possible. It’s also about shining a light on this incredibly diverse industry, celebrating brewers, educating consumers and bringing them into the world of craft beer and cider”.
Jeffares continues, “Guy and I have long held aspirations of taking the GABS experience to even more destinations and audiences. With Mike sharing those ambitions, our incredible team is better placed than ever before to really explore that potential. We will remain involved as consultants and continue to be very much connected to the event that we have poured our heart and soul into. This opportunity will now allow us to better focus on the growing demands of our burgeoning Stomping Ground brewery in Melbourne.”