Geelong Racecourse, February 6
The old slogan ‘Free Beer’ is used as a catch cry on promotional posters, often tongue in cheek, as a sure-fire way to attract thousands of punters. The beer wasn’t free, but there were thousands of punters packed into the Geelong Racecourse for the Great Australian Beer Festival, testament to the fact that beer, or in this case craft beer, is still as popular as ever. The music festival still exists and is still good, but people are looking for more – BBQ festivals, coffee festivals, French festivals, squid festivals – and this festival, held in Geelong, is square at the centre of the ‘more than music’ festival movement – and for good reason.
The weather was great, though out in the sun in the middle of the day and/or not under shelter was HOT! A few smart people had arrived early to reserve places on the grass and under the shade of trees, do this! Unfortunately for our crew we weren’t that smart, and arrived at about 3pm. By this time the festival was packed, people were flowing throughout different areas and the vibes were great.
The set up was as follows; buy tokens which become your currency for food and craft beer, the tokens (in turn for what you get) were not cheap but they were also not pricey (they were about right), and the token line was moving nicely all day. You can either purchase a pour of 100ml or 200ml from various brewers and you select different beers to try. Around the venue craft beer providers had their stalls set up and we moved around standing in different areas trying different beers – all of which were nice and cold. I’m by no means a craft beer lover, but I enjoyed the fact you could try a different drink each time. The wait for a beer was virtually non existent at the various stalls, which was great.
The layout was fantastic, there was plenty of grass and different areas. As a breakdown, there was a large grassy area with scattered shade cloths, the racecourse tunnel which provided heaps of cool shade, the hill along the race track and grand stand which provided both sun and shade, the beer hall and area front of stage – there was lots of variety for spots to chill and your group could easily move around without feeling bored. There was even a table tennis table and bocce area under a tree which was a nice touch. The music was tucked away in a particular area, and if I am honest, we didn’t spend a lot of time there – but not for any particular reason other than it felt like the heart of the festival was closer to the front gates.
The crowd was great, I didn’t see one altercation or act of dickheadery, the event also functioned and ran smoothly. Once the sun cooled off a bit and the heat, which was at times oppressive, dulled you felt a lift in the crowd’s energy and everyone was genuinely having a blast – all enjoying what become a beautiful sunset. Upon leaving the cabs flowed, which is always great – again props to the organiser for that.
This is an A-Grade festival, there’s no doubt about it. I highly recommend it. The only knock (because I have to at least mention something) was we struggled to escape the heat at times and find shade, and there was a long line for food (at times), but apart from that is was an outstanding day, this festival is only going to grow from here. I highly recommend the day, but not the hangover.