August 2 2012 by Crafty Pint
It’s fair to say that the Ballarat Beer Festival took a lot of people by surprise last summer. Some of the brewers ran out of beer. Hundreds – possibly even a couple of thousand people – had to be turned away at the gate after capacity was reached. And even the organisers, despite around 3,000 pre-sales, were unprepared by the hordes that snaked their way through the streets outside hoping to join in the fun.
It’s also fair to say that, of all the surprises the organisers of a festival would like to have at their first ever event, having too many people turn up is one they’d be happy to wear. And, having exceeded all expectations in 2012, they’re planning to ramp up every aspect of their offering in 2013. Tickets today went on sale for next year’s event, for which they’re looking at a capacity of 12,000 (up from just over 5,000), more brewers serving over 100 different beers, more cider, improved infrastructure to ensure they’re as weather-proofed as they can be and an educational hub hosted by Pete Mitcham, aka Prof Pilsner of Beer Blokes.
“The feedback was 99.95 per cent outstanding and brewers have been jumping over each other to sign up again,” says festival co-founder Simon Coghlan, who owns Ballarat’s Golden City and Western Hotels. “What we created was a great day for a whole range of people that included families. It had a lot of elements but still had craft beer as the champion.
“The festival was an idea I’d been working on for years, borne of my family’s history in Ballarat [Simon’s great-great-grandfather founded the Ballarat Brewing Company]. It was also motivated by the fact that Ballarat is so close to Melbourne but doesn’t have the same offerings that it does. We’ve got people here who appreciate beer and food for what it can be who are missing out.”
The 2013 festival is on January 19 and will be held on the City Oval again, albeit using the entire oval this time. The organisers are keeping much of the detail, such as some of the brewers and which bands will be performing, under wraps for now but hosts Charlie Pickering and Danny McGinlay will be back alongside the Beer Diva, Kirrily Waldhorn.
“We had a great first year,” says festival promoter Lyndell Pond, who worked with Simon, his fellow hotelier Tim Kearney and event manager Kate Burrows on the first festival. “Combining a good music lineup brings a different element to the craft beer scene. We’ve got some Ballarat restaurants to do some food so they can showcases dishes from their restaurants [and will have] wineries and a kids area.”