Feeling fabs at GABS

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And so concludes the 2018 Great Australian Beer Spectapular in Melbs, where breweries and beer fanatics came together to celebrate the fun, the weird, and seriously good beer.

GABS always encourages brewers to innovate and push the limits of beer in their festival offerings, and they certainly delivered on that this year. What do snails, crickets and durians fruit all have in common? They were all ingredients in some of the selections brought to offer this weekend in Melbourne. Yep.

 

Festival-goers are encouraged to get into the experience, not only through the sampling of all of the beers (almost literally, looking at some of exiting revellers at 11:15PM at the Saturday night session), but through drive-by reviews and the sharing of experiences – whether that’s listening to the roaming cover brass bands or listening to the brewers earnestly describe their beers, with overstated “I’m listening, just trying to tune out Christopher talk about his number one favourite cover band at the same time” faces.

GABS shows how zealously Australian and New Zealand brewers are developing their own sense of character and style. With all the talk lately of ‘craft’ style versus actual independent breweries, the festival walks the line with a heavy dose of smaller breweries and a couple of multinationals and big name sponsors that feel ever present though the halls.

Sweet beers are popping up more and more, with barrel-aged beers making a big play, and as many infusions as possible. A good thing about GABS is that it allows a market for beers that wouldn’t have an appeal in mass distribution: high alcohol, high sugar and full-bodied beer that is generally drunk in small sips.

Another common theme at GABS was the combination of people who love beer, and people who in love beer. The festival, like with the craft-style vs indie beer debate, caters to both. Sharon, who loves a double IPA and a discussion of the type of hops with an excitable head brewer, feels just at home as Lisa, “Ooh! A Piña Colada in a beer?! One for me and the girls!” This exemplifies the division at the moment: where is the Aussie market for beer going? Is it more Sharon or Lisa or some mash-up of both, like a Shlisaron? Digression.

GABS is a place to see breweries coming together to ‘compete’ with outlandish beers. It’s a combination of serious people serious about seriously good beer, and a place for brewers and festival-goers to let their hair down (or silly hats on), listen to roaming brass bands and engage in a bit of frivolity.

Some standouts and features from the fest:

Brewmanity Beer Co – Rumazin’ Tripel Treat

Belgian-Style Tripel

Succeeds in combining the best parts of a beer: cold, full-bodied and alcoholic with the tastiest parts of a rum liquor. It wouldn’t be out of place to be sipped in a high ceilinged library, sitting next to a crackling fire in your favourite plump armchair. “No, no, Wilcox, the tripel shall do in the place of the port tonight. Chop chop.”

Also to add to the goodness, Brewmanity donates a portion of sales to the Cure for MND Foundation. Good beer AND good vibes? We can get around that.

KAIJU! Beer – Spacium Ray

American IPA

A standout in a sea of sugar-blasted beers at GABS, the Spacium Ray is a very clean and not-sober American style IPA. Refreshing and hoppy at the same time. It’s not a monster that comes and stomps on the palette as their name may suggest.

James Squire – ‘The Wreck’ Preservation Ale

Porter

For a beer that has its roots 220 years ago, this beer sure has a lot of buzz surrounding it. Smells of olive and smoke, two things that wouldn’t have been out of place on the ship where the yeast is sourced from, to be sure! It’s a full porter, but don’t expect caramel or more than a hint coffee, his old girl is heavy, but not too sweet. Best served with a side of history,  rather than on its own.

Emily Webster

Emily converted to beer life in 2016 and hasn't looked back. American-Australian transplant, you can take the girl out of America, but you can't take the 12%+ American Style IIIPA out of the girl.