This year has been one of cancellations and postponements but the team at GABS is hoping 2021 will look a little different: they'll be welcoming in the new year with two new versions of their beer festival in Queensland.
The GABS Summer Craft Beer Festival Tour hits the Sunshine Coast on January 2 and the Gold Coast a week later, with both outdoor festivals featuring close to 70 breweries.
GABS managing director Mike Bray, who bought the festival from founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone late last year, says that while it’s a short lead time from the announcement of the twin festivals to their execution, much prior work has enabled them to come together.
“It’s been months in the building,” Mike says, “Since we moved GABS festival dates to November, we’ve been dealing with Queensland Health and everybody to get those events to happen.”
They had received approval from the relevant state government authorities to run GABS Brisbane, but were unable to hold it at their preferred venue; ultimately, GABS in the Queensland capital, plus those in Melbourne and Sydney were called off at the start of last month. While the original festival will be back next year and running closer to the traditional dates, Mike says the idea of running a summer tour and bringing the GABS experience to new locations has been in the works for some time too.
“It’s been an interesting journey, but it’s in a fun place because we were always going to bring summer events to the market – we just didn’t expect to do that with COVID,” he says.
Any GABS devotees attending either the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast festivals can look out for new elements alongside those which make the festival what it is. Not least among those new elements is the fact both are taking place outside and, while the GABS container bars will be a part of it, the re-dubbed GABS Invitational Bars won’t focus on new releases and instead look to showcase beers from breweries with little presence in the state.
“We’re going to curate a list of brewers who can’t get into Queensland and have really been hit hard by COVID,” Mike says.
For those looking for limited releases, the New Zealand Festival Bar will feature breweries from across The Ditch invited to brew new beers for the summer tour, while the music, food trucks and huge ferris wheel will return.
The new festivals aren’t the only signs of change at GABS either; they opened a Queensland office yesterday. While event director Craig Williams and head of operations Ruta Marcinkus remain in Melbourne, Mike says they've taken on staff in Queensland to better allow them to run events on the ground there; the team includes Rebecca Whitehouse who was involved with running Beer InCider.
“It means we are able to deliver the event using local resources,” Mike says.
“We’ve got four new team members in the GABS office in Queensland and that’s going to be a permanent fixture."
The need to have a bigger team in different locations has been driven home by COVID-19, according to Mike, with border closures in Australia and New Zealand meaning they’ve been unable to run anything – even when local restrictions would have allowed some form of event to take place. As he looks forward to finally attending a first GABS since his acquisition of the operation, his plan is to leave his home in Sydney a few weeks early, and he's confident both industry and beer lovers are thirsty for beer festivals to return.
“The industry response has been incredible,” he says. "Everyone is excited about the ability to be able to share a beer and connect with customers directly en masse.”
Tickets to the GABS Summer Craft Beer Festival Tour go on sale this week and will be available here. We'll be announcing deals and giveaways for members of our recently-relaunched Crafty Cabal beer club too, so keep an eye out for those.
Festival dates and locations
- Sunshine Coast Stadium Foreshore
- Saturday, January 2, 2021
- Great Lawn, Broadwater Parklands, Gold Coast
- Saturday January 9, 2021