Crafty Pint / 06.08.12
Murray’s brews out of nearby Port Stephens. Warners at the Bay has long had one of the largest beer selections in Australia. The Albion Hotel has fast become one of the best beer pubs in the country. And the Hunter Brewing Co isn’t too far away. Despite that, Newcastle might not have been the first place a betting man would have backed to launch its own craft beer week following the success of the inaugural Good Beer Week in 2011. Yet not only did Newcastle Craft Beer Week take place last November, but the events that took place across 11 venues were a roaring success.
All of which makes it little surprise that Newcastle Craft Beer Week is returning in 2012. And even less of a surprise that the organisers plan to make it even bigger, with twice the number of venues expressing an interest and up to 50 events likely to make it onto the calendar. What’s more, festival co-founder Corey Crook, from The Albion, has also set his sights on launching a tourism-focused mini-festival within the festival with an event featuring brewery stalls, food and entertainment in the grounds of Newcastle’s historic Fort Scratchley on the opening weekend.
“Last year was planting the seeds,” he says. “This year there are more venues wanting to get involved and with more idea of what they want to do.
“Looking back at something that was put together that quickly, it outweighed my expectations, particularly on the first night. We had three events on – Richie coming home [Novocastrian Richard Watkins who brews at the Wig & Pen in Canberra], a female event and one with 4 Pines and Rocks Brewing – and it was cold, raining, windy and miserable, yet we had 250 people at events on a Monday night. By the time we got to the end, we’d had 2,500 people at events across the week.
“For us at The Albion, if it hadn’t been for Newcastle Craft Beer Week we’d still have had Toohey’s New on tap. [We had always planned to take off all mainstream beer and] the week was the point that enabled us to get to where we wanted to be.”
Event submissions are currently open, with interested venues encouraged to email Corey with their ideas. The festival was run with a zero budget last year, so this time around there are event registration fees that will go towards marketing the week. They are $250 per event, $350 for more than one event and $750 to become an event partner.
The week will open with the Port Scratchley event on November 18 and close with the annual Warners at the Bay festival on November 25. There will be a Newcastle version of the Pint of Origin concept that launched during Good Beer Week in May, with brewers from different states invited to take over the taps at bars around the city, and appearances from all manner of crafty characters.
As in its launch year, the festival is being well supported by the local council and press. In what will hopefully act as an example to councils and media organisations in other cities and states that hold large scale craft beer events, there will be assistance with both marketing and publicity. Last year, the Newcastle Herald published a magazine dedicated to craft beer to coincide with the festival while the city council produced the week’s program guides, flyers and posters. The Herald has maintained an interest in craft beer since, publishing a feature (pictured here) on the growing local scene at the weekend.
“It’s all coming together,” says Corey. “We’ve had a first meeting with venues and there are that many brewers wanting to come who’ve had positive feedback through their networks on last year who want to get involved.”