GABS, the beer festival meets circus that has grown into a multi-city extravaganza over the past decade has been sold. Founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone have sold it in order to focus on their fast-growing Stomping Ground brewing operation.
The festival has been acquired by media and marketing entrepreneur Mike Bray and 5th Avenue Investment Group and event director Craig Williams is remaining with GABS under the new structure. The sale also sees the annual Hottest 100 Craft Beers countdown move along with the festival.
The original Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular took place at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda in February 2011, featuring 20 new Australian brews. The following year, it moved to become part of Good Beer Week and now takes place in Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland as well as its original home Melbourne.
In a media release issued today, Steve said: "We’re thrilled to now pass the baton to Mike and his team, ably led by long time event director Craig Williams, and look forward to seeing them taking GABS to even greater heights.”
Steve told The Crafty Pint that he and Guy were contacted by Mike close to six months ago and slowly started to feel that the Sydney-based businessman had the right set of hands to steer the festival into the future.
“We’d been courted by a number of organisations over the last few years but none of them felt right," Steve says.
“With Mike, he really aligned with what we thought about the event and over the last few months in the getting-to-know-you period, we grew increasingly confident that he was going to look after the legacy of the event.
"He was also as ambitious as we were for what we saw as the potential of the event concept in other cities and countries.”
Steve says despite having looked at ways to take GABS further abroad, with so much of his and Guy's time taken up running Stomping Ground, they'd found it difficult to focus on the festival. This year the brewery announced it would be building new brewpubs in both Moorabbin and Melbourne Airport.
“We just didn’t have the bandwidth or time to spend on developing those sorts of ideas,” Steve says.
“Three or four months of the year, we’ve had one eye on GABS and one on Stomping Ground and that’s just become increasingly untenable.”
Steve added that the GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers was moving along with the festival and that he was excited to see where Mike would take the annual countdown.
“We’ve had exciting plans to activate the countdown day but they’ve been put in the 'too hard' basket for a little too long,” he says.
Renowned as one of the leading craft beer festivals in Australia and New Zealand, GABS Beer, Cider & Food Fest has today been acquired by media and marketing entrepreneur Mike Bray and 5th Avenue Investment Group.
Since launched in 2011 at The Local Taphouse bars in Melbourne and Sydney by founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone, the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular has grown alongside the booming craft beer industry and consistently ranks as the country’s favourite festival in craft beer consumer surveys. As Jeffares reflects, “Over the last decade, we’ve worked hard with a fantastic team to create a truly unique and innovative festival experience, showcasing the creativity of breweries with more than a thousand ‘Festival Beers & Ciders’ launched for the first time at GABS. In that time, more than 210,000 people, many new to craft beer, have attended our events in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. We’re thrilled to now pass the baton to Mike and his team, ably led by long time Event Director Craig Williams, and look forward to seeing them taking GABS to even greater heights.”
5th Avenue are a small team with a passion for craft beer, who come into the business with a strong background in marketing and events. Mike Bray has been appointed as Managing Director of SpecTAPular Enterprises Pty Ltd, and Craig Williams, having led the business since 2017, remains as Event Director.
Bray’s entrepreneurial background has seen him found highly successful marketing and media businesses, and work with some of the biggest lifestyle brands in the world. “It’s an honour to join the team as GABS prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary in Melbourne,” says Bray. “We are extremely excited to continue Steve and Guy’s original vision to become one of the best beer festivals in the world. For us, GABS is about sharing our love of craft beer and cider with as many people as possible. It’s also about shining a light on this incredibly diverse industry, celebrating brewers, educating consumers and bringing them into the world of craft beer and cider”.
Jeffares continues: “Guy and I have long held aspirations of taking the GABS experience to even more destinations and audiences. With Mike sharing those ambitions, our incredible team is better placed than ever before to really explore that potential. We will remain involved as consultants and continue to be very much connected to the event that we have poured our heart and soul into. This opportunity will now allow us to better focus on the growing demands of our burgeoning Stomping Ground brewery in Melbourne.”