The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Another record year for GABS


Now in its seventh year, GABS Beer, Cider & Food Fest has firmly established itself as one of the world’s benchmark craft beer festivals. Across events in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland, the festival attracted 34,899 people, an increase of 10% on last year, with huge growth in Auckland (53%) and an 11% growth in hometown, Melbourne.

The festival attracted a broad audience from the ‘beer curious’ to the ‘craft faithful’ –  and, in the process, shone a spotlight on the creativity and diversity of the booming craft beer industry in Australia and New Zealand.

While today there are numerous beer festivals held in both countries, to this day GABS is the only event to feature beers and ciders brewed especially for the event. According to co-founder Steve Jeffares, it all goes back to the very first idea of the event. “What if we could convince the country’s most exciting craft breweries to all brew and release a brand new beer on the same day at the one event?” he says. That simple thought led to the very first ‘Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular’ held in 2011 at The Local Taphouse bars in St Kilda and Darlinghurst.

The idea struck a chord, and the event (better known as GABS) now features almost 170 unique brews served from three 40-foot shipping container bars, each lined with 120 taps. Over the festival’s history, it’s estimated that some 850 new beers and ciders have been introduced to the market. For brewers, it’s an opportunity to play and experiment. For beer lovers, it’s a veritable Disneyland!

With growth and competition comes creativity, and GABS offers the perfect platform for brewers to push the boundaries of the beer spectrum. In 2017, we saw sea urchin infused beer from NZ’s Piha Beer, purple ‘Fruit Tingle’ inspired beer from Merchant Brewing, kombucha sours, barrel-aged beers, curry beers, beers brewed in clay amphorae, chocolate, chilli, mint, fruit and so much more. One cursory look at the GABS Official Guide will immediately disabuse you of the notion that Australasian beer is limited to lagers, pale ales and pilsners. It’s a brave new world out there.

But it’s not only the brewers demanding the best of themselves. Today’s beer punter has a sophisticated palate, as shown by the results of the Beer & Brewer People’s Choice Award, where GABS attendees are invited to vote on their favourite Festival Beer and Cider.

In Australia, the winner by a clear margin was Stockade Brewing Co’s ‘The Mountie’ Maple Imperial Stout, a monster 12% jet black beer big on chocolate, raisins, and of course maple. Social media pressure has now been applied to the brewery, who are quickly brewing another batch.

In New Zealand, another Stout took the title, with Behemoth Brewing Co’s ‘Chocolate Fish’ Milk Stout standing tall. Inspired by a nostalgic Kiwi treat – the marshmallow and raspberry ‘Chocolate Fish’ – this beer hit all the right notes for the New Zealand audience. In second place in both countries was Adelaide’s Pirate Life with their ‘Vanilla Malt Thickshake’ and completing the podium was Akasha’s ‘Lupulin Fog’ (Australia) and Funk Estate’s ‘Pink Drink IPA’ (New Zealand).