Crafty Pint / 03.07.12
It’s that time of the year when humans and humpback whales alike flee the colder Aussie climes and head en masse to Queensland for sunshine and, in the case of the whales at least, a spot of breeding. This year, the humping humpbacks and sun-seeking southerners will be joined by a new breed, as Queensland’s first ever Beer Week entices beer lovers to a place not previously known for its craft beer culture. There, they’ll find almost 60 events taking place from July 16 to 22 at breweries and venues the length of the state – a sure sign that the recent growth in craft beer venues around the capital is no fluke.
The festival is being run by the team behind the Beer Lover’s Guide To Australia and Critic’s Choice books. It was while setting up events to celebrate the launch of the latter that publisher Mark Midro decided to “put up my hand” and get Queensland Beer Week off the ground.
“Overall, I have been blown away with the support from the industry,” he says. “The effort and enthusiasm of those involved is reflected in the quality of their events. Have a look at the flyers the venues have designed for their events – I reckon they are now leading the way. We recently had a capacity QBW official launch event, further highlighting the support and interest. Media, punters and venue operators turned up on a Monday night to enjoy the flowing beers and ciders!”
Among the events on the program is an attempt to break the world record for brewing by Brewers Choice, a chain of home brew shops around Brisbane and one of the major sponsors of the festival.
Company director David Kitchen says: “We set out to do something big, fun and a bit different that will bring together the Brisbane brewing and beer loving community. It all started last year after our successful Queensland Homebrewing Conference and we were looking for a new challenge, then Queensland Beer Week came up and we saw it as a perfect opportunity for community engagement.
“The plan is that we will have brewers of all levels brewing together, so beginners can see what other brewing options are available to them, and hopefully taste how good their beers can become. And at the end of the day, it should be a fun time, with a heap of brewers all getting together and talking about how good their beers are! We’re looking for wider promotion of the joys and satisfaction of home brewing across Brisbane and the state, and to show that it is a really fun and rewarding hobby that produces great tasting beers that can be superior to commercial options. We want to dispel the misconception that home-brewed beer is sub-standard beer and show non-brewers that brewing it yourself is as much about making great beers as it is about saving money.”
It’s questionable whether such an event could have been held in 2011, not just because the whole beer week concept is still relatively new to Australia but also because there wasn’t much support from venues for non-commercial beer in Brisbane. It seems like a lifetime ago that the withdrawing of support for independent craft beer in the CBD’s Platform Bar was presented by some as the death knell for craft beer bars in Brisbane. Yet that was only last February. Since then, venues such as Bitter Suite and Scratch Bar have opened, Bacchus Brewing has sent some crazy beers around Australia and the man behind 4 Hearts Brewing has helped drive the cause of craft beer forward in his hometown of Ipswich.
At Scratch, they’ve taken the opportunities presented by Queensland Beer Week by the horns and lined up an entire week of events themselves, from film nights and feasts to the launch of a special collaboration beer from Two Birds and Cavalier.
Co-owner Kieran Ryan says: “It would be an understatement to say we love holding beery events at The Scratch, and we couldn’t exactly help ourselves when the notion of a entire week of beer fun was put forward by the QBW crew. We figured – since we have such a marvellous league of regular punters and beer troops, coupled with an extremely enthusiastic response from some of the nation’s best brewers, yet hindered by a somewhat limiting capacity on patrons – that the only logical solution was to have as many events as we could physically handle. Needless to say, we won’t be getting a lot of sleep that week.
“We’re continually slapping ourselves in the face as things continue to grow and get better for us each month. It is truly humbling to have the support of so many people, and see the magic of word of mouth in action. A successful small business is a testament to the notion that people still like to get behind the little guys, and are a lot smarter than the marketing departments of big ass corporations think they are. Our biggest problem continually seems to be our punters drinking us out of new and delicious beers, which is a pretty good problem to have.”
Certainly, everyone involved in the burgeoning craft beer community seems enthused by the future for Queenslanders. While the state still lacks a large number of craft brewers or brew pubs, according to David the scene “is growing exponentially. The last year especially has seen a real boom where craft beer is starting to spread into the wider community and be accepted as a norm.”
As for Kieran: “We’re loving the seemingly rapid adoption of a craft beer mentality amongst Queenslanders in general. It is to the credit of some of our local brewers such as Bacchus, Burleigh and 4 Hearts for producing exceptional quality beers, and working hard to get them on tap in more and more venues, thus allowing more punters to experience choice, and quality products with a local face and story. With new venues embracing craft beer in some capacity as fast as they seem to be, not to mention talk of new breweries, I think this is going to be a ripper year for craft beer in Queensland.”
The full festival program, including beer tours, is available online while the organisers have also put together a mobile app to help you along the way – and asked us to thank their major sponsors: Moo Brew, MT Tamborine Brewery, Brewers Choice Home Brew Stores, Brews News and Scene magazine.