The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) is held every May in Melbourne as part of Good Beer Week. Started in 2012 by Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone from the Local Taphouse, GABS showcases craft beer from Australia, New Zealand and increasingly, the rest of the world.
GABS 2014 impressed me a lot, improving on the 2012 edition that I attended in almost every way. Lines moved faster, a greater variety of beer was on offer, the food was better and everything just ran a lot smoother than I had remembered. The stats are impressive. 250 craft beers, 120 exclusive beers, 150 brewers.
There are lots of brewer stalls, exhibitions and activities on during GABS but the show piece of the event is without a doubt the one-off beers brewed specifically for GABS. 120 beers on tap over 2 massive containers dominate the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton. You get a paddle with 5 empty slots, take a look through the guide and pick 5 beers that tickle your fancy then head up and exchange 5 tokens ($10 value – all purchases at GABS must be made using tokens) for your 5 beers. You can get more than a sample for more tokens, but with 120 exclusive beers on offer that’s not an option that many appeared to be taking.
I tried several beers over the course of the day, and the GABS app, which could be linked to Untappd, was a very useful was of keeping track of all the beers that I tried and what I thought of each of them. Much easier than the old pen and paper from 2 years prior. My top 2 beers, which I gave 4.5/5 stars were:
4/5 stars went to:
- White Rocket in Flight, Afternoon Delight – 7 Cent Brewery.
- Land Of Plenty Lager – AIBA Collaborator (CUB, Feral Brewing Company, 2 Brothers Brewery).
- Sticky Nipple Stout – Barossa Valley Brewing.
- Tart Shaped Box – Birbeck’s Brewing Co.
- PB – Bootleg Brewery.
- Once Upon a Whisky Barrel There Lived a Funky Tripel – Bridge Road Brewers.
- Slammer – Ekim Brewing Co.
- Umami Monster – Garage Project.
- Brett The Bloody Orange – HopDog BeerWorks.
- Faux Nero – McLaren Vale Beer Co.
- Morktain Goat Jaffa Ale – Mountain Goat Beer.
- Triple Wood Know Brown – Nøgne Ø.
- Black Elderberry Bock – Prickly Moses.
- Sesame Snap-chat – Two Birds Brewing.
As for the rest, well there are too many to mention.
There is no shortage of booths and people to buy tokens from should you run out, so thankfully lines weren’t a huge issue this year.
The food on offer was quite impressive with a range of local producers and businesses setting up shop inside.
I went for some American BBQ, beef brisket to be precise, from the Fancy Hanks stall. It was delicious – perfect “beer food”.
This game of giant Jenga drew quite a crowd.
One of the things that I like most about GABS is the focus on special one-off beers. Usually the beers at beer festivals are the standard range that each brewer has, which results in a lot of sameness. With these one-off beers, brewers are encouraged to try something different, hence the rocky road, peanut butter and jelly, jaffa, rocket (as in the lettuce), seaweed beers and the like. Sometimes they don’t work and sometimes they do, either way it’s great to see the boundaries of what beer “is” being pushed.
It’s great to see that GABS has gone from strength to strength over the past 3 years and I look forward to seeing how to organisers improve on what’s already a great festival in 2015. Cheers!