The lockdown of Greater Sydney announced last week nearly put a spanner in the works of the GABS Summer Festivals in Queensland.
GABS managing director Mike Bray had been in Queensland tending to festival arrangements and was on his way back to his home in NSW when news of the Sydney lockdowns emerged.
Having checked-in for his flight from Queensland to Sydney, Bray was about to board when he made the last-minute decision to remain in Queensland. The decision proved fortuitous when the state government banned those from travelling to the state from Greater Sydney which would have prevented his return before the first summer event.
“We were doing site visits and Steve Jeffares, one of the founders of GABS, was up with us. Steve and I were flying from the Gold Coast and our planes were delayed for about 40 minutes.
“We were sitting having a beer after check-in, I looked at my newsfeed and saw Sydney had an outbreak. I thought, ‘If I get on that plane I’ll never get back’.”
His hunch turned out to be correct. Over the weekend Queensland closed its borders to first the Northern Beaches, and then to Greater Sydney, with mandated hotel quarantine for those returning from those areas, causing havoc for holiday plans across the country.
Despite the close call, GABS Summer Craft Beer Festivals on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts are full steam ahead after organisers were forced to postpone the 2020 GABS events in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane following the nationwide lockdowns earlier this year.
“The Summer tour is the next phase in our journey as we look over time to introduce big regional cities,” explained Bray.
“Doing GABS on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, we’re doing a similar thing to what we did 10 years ago – we’re bringing it to town to introduce the world of craft to so many new people at the top and of the funnel.”
However the inaugural events have not been totally immune to the resurgence of COVID-19 hotspots, and a number of brewers will be there in spirit (and beer) but not in person.
Modus Operandi Brewing, located in the Northern Beaches and Newcastle areas, as well as Gage Roads and Matso’s are among those that won’t be able to attend, but that doesn’t mean event-goers won’t be able to try their beers.
“We’ll still be serving beers from those breweries, they just won’t have an exhibition space, which is a great result for them and they’d already shipped their beer to the Sunshine Coast – the bottom line is they can pour.”
Bray said he hoped that the Summer Festivals would be something to look forward to after a challenging year.
“It has been a year in waiting – the year that wasn’t. But we can kick off 2021 with a great craft beer festival.”
Bray has high hopes for the festival too.
“The summer tour will ideally grow into a bigger event by next summer and it will be growing the craft beer experience and taking it to bigger regional cities that don’t get beer festivals of this scale that GABS can bring.
“We know it will be an evolving process, when GABS launched with two massive containers, we built it and we wondered if people would come, and we’re doing that now, looking for the community support – it’s an educational process that allows us to engage twice in the year at the level we do now.”
It has also been announced that event director Craig Williams has left the business and is taking some time out to spend with his family.
“As we head into the new year, we need to say goodbye (for now at least) to one of our finest team members, Craig Williams,” said the GABS team.
“Craig has decided to take some time out from the world of eventing and a well-deserved break for the first time in 25 years as he focuses on his young family and an exciting, interstate, relocation. We would like to thank CW for the remarkable four years as event director of GABS and wish him and his family everything of the best for the new adventure!”
Williams, who has been with the organisation for four years, said it had been a privilege.
“For me, like many, it’s been an incredibly challenging year. And a year that puts things into perspective. I realised that I’ve been putting my job before my wellbeing, my family and my friends for a while now. And I can’t do that anymore,” he said.
“So I made the hardest decision I’ve made for a long time. To leave my dream job. To put my future back in my own hands. And to get my priorities back in order.
“I know GABS will continue on to great success with Mike and his highly talented team. For me though, I’m gonna take a break for the first time in 25 years, and then think about next steps.
“To all the people I’ve worked with through this role, thank you so much for your support. It’s a journey I’ve been thrilled to share with you. Hope to catch you for a beer down the track.”
Sunshine Coast – Sunshine Coast Stadium Foreshore
Sat 2nd January 2021 (tickets on sale: Sat 14th November)
Gold Coast – Great Lawn, Broadwater Parklands, Gold Coast
Sat 9th January 2021 (tickets on sale: Sat 14th November)