Great Australian Beer Festival

Great Australian Beer Festival

Is anything in life more perfectly matched than a cold beer on a hot day? Perhaps, but this is a marriage made in heaven. With the Great Australian Beer Festival returning on a summer’s day in 2015, we thought we would use it as an excuse to wet out lips a little as we discovered all we have to look forward to.
Hi Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat with Forte. How are you and what are you up to at the moment?
Never been busier! While planning is well underway for our third instalment of the Great Australian Beer Festival next Feb 21, Kieran, my business partner and festival co-director of GABF and I decided to take our craft beer festival concept on the road and have landed in Sydney. We’re on the verge of running the biggest craft beer event NSW has ever seen on the 25/26 of this month. The event is called Sip & Savour and we’ve taken over a massively refurbished railway shed called Carriageworks in the inner west suburbs. We’ve also arranged for Melbourne indie band Husky to perform as headline act. It’s a huge undertaking and we’re so pleased at the incredibly warm reception we’ve received.
There isn’t really anything like it in Geelong. Was that part of the reason why the event was created?
Geelong is on the verge of something very special and the city and whole region is primed for a very prosperous future. While beer festivals are popping up around the country it wasn’t the case when we founded GABF. Geelong has always needed a unique festival and there’s not many more unique than a craft beer and cider fest boasting a national photographic competition together with cabaret, comedy and great live music acts. We attract brewers from all over the country and our last fest drew people to town from every state and territory in Australia together with New Zealand – and believe it or not a lone Mexican made his way here to attend the event!
What’s been the effect to local wineries and breweries in the region from the festival?
The Great Australian Beer Festival has put the spotlight squarely on the region with brewers from all over the country lining up to attend. The general awareness and acceptance of craft beer is growing strongly – more bars, restaurants and cafés are stocking a variety of beers and ciders. The festival is attended by all local brewers and we have set aside a section which showcases only local. Their support has been wonderful and very much appreciated.
What will the selection of beers and ciders be like on the day?
We will have over 200 beers and ciders from which to taste and they will include every available style of beer. We are also adding international beers to next year’s event together with creating a cider garden to showcase the growing number of cider makers emerging around Australia.
It must be pretty great to work at an event that involves beer. What’s your favourite thing about the GABF?
The type of audience we attract know how to really enjoy themselves. The event attracts 50/50 male female ratio and whether they are beer nerds, converts, socials or aficionados they all have a great time.
My favourite thing about GABF is creating an event that engages our audience on multiple levels and all their senses. Even if beer specifically isn’t your thing, there is still plenty going on – discover a world away from beer where craft beer culture takes a backseat to local gourmet foods, great music, vibrant cabaret, indie stalls and funky art.
This time around you’re including some comedians. What sparked the change?
Craft beer drinkers are switched on and appreciate quality. They also like to be engaged, and we believe adding fringe fest elements, both visual and performing arts, delivers an event that matches our audience’s expectation. We aim to engage all senses so the event is a whole lot more than tasting fresh crafted beer.
What other entertainment can we look forward to on the day?
I’m working on an eclectic range/variety of music for our next fest – add a bit of worldly music, some reggae/calypso, country bluegrass, indie, folk and maybe even a guest DJ … Stay tuned.
You’re back for your third year in 2015. How have things changed?
We’ve increased our footprint around the racecourse to cater for the influx of visitors this event attracts. Geelong Racecourse is an ideal venue with plenty of grassed areas, plenty of shade and heaps of undercover areas should we need them.
The biggest changes will include adding a third stage and more colour to the event. The extra stage will feature comedy, cabaret and quirky acts that delight. We’re also inviting people to come along in fancy dress. Dress up as your favourite superhero, Hawaiian theme – or even as Where’s Wally?. There will be a best sombrero and group award, with workplaces being challenged to have employees dress up and be in the running for the inaugural GABF ‘Best Dressed Org Award’ and $1000 first prize donated to a charity of their choice.
What’s your best piece of advice for first-timers to the festival?
Take advantage of our early bird ticket offer. Pre-purchase your ticket and save! While we are keeping the ticket price the same for 2015 there is an increase for those buying at the gate on the day. So don’t delay!
Get into the spirit of the fest and try a variety of beers. This is a great opportunity to try as many different styles of beers, so next time you’re going to a party and need a six pack you’ll buy with confidence – now being an expert.
Thanks again for taking the time to have a chat with Forte. Is there anything you’d like to add before we finish up?
Tickets to the festival make great presents whether for birthdays or for Christmas. We sold heaps recently for Father’s Day. Just book, print and give.
Visit gabf.com.au for more information.