BecauseWeCAN: GABS 2021 Edition

May 18, 2021, by Benedict "Benny" Kennedy-Cox
BecauseWeCAN: GABS 2021 Edition

Brewers might be releasing one-off and off-the-wall beers all year round, but if you want to experience the truly creative and the absolutely whacky, the best place to do that is GABS

The festival's original raison d'être when it launched at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda back in 2011 was to encourage local brewers to create brand new, envelope-pushing beers for the event. As such, it's been around well before SKU-mageddon crashed against these shores and arguably has even helped give rise to the dessert and nostalgia-inspired beers that have increasingly ubiquitous in craft beer.

Having launched the BecauseWeCAN series last month to explore some of beers biggest boundary pushers, we thought we best take the concept to Sydney GABS to check out some of this year's wilder releases, with Benny Kennedy-Cox and Mick Wust straight in for the first session of 2021.

There was some discussion among the team in advance to work out exactly which of the array of Festival Beers should be the focus when practically any of the more than a hundred could have been chosen but, ultimately, we went for a unifying idea based around those featuring flavours embedded to the country.

For those new to the concept, we invite the brewers to tell us the backstory to their beers before seeing how they rate in terms of Novelty – AKA We're Not In Kansas Anymore – and Nailing The Brief – AKA It Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin.

Beer 1: Smashed Avo Sour by Public Brewing Co

Less breakfast beer than breakfast in beer.


Brewer's notes

Located in Melbourne's eastern suburb of Croydon, The Public Brewery brought local beer to a corner of the city where there had been none and, with this beer, they looked to bring a quintessential part of Melbourne life into beer form.

We wanted to create a beer that resonated with all Melburnians and what’s more Melbourne than smashed avo? We made this beer for the typical smashed avo breaky lovers – particularly those in Gen Y – and see it as a real light and easy-drinking beer to enjoy before a lunch date.

Our head brewer Gab Porto picked it, and actually nailed it in two batches: the first test batch was a little too lemony so he altered it a bit to get the beer that's ultimately made it to the festival.

We ended up smashing 70kg of avos for the brew, which has all-natural ingredients in it, including Himalayan rock salt, chilli flakes, lemon and cracked pepper. 

We’re not in Kansas anymore, or are we?

This beer was really just a matter of time, huh? Six or seven years ago, lemony, feta-sprinkled and (ethically) smashed avocado on toast made its way onto the menus of most cafés.

Naturally, it won a spot in the heart of brunchers before migrating into the rants of newspaper columnists. Now that it's infiltrated our beer, I can honestly say that I am scared of how the Sunday papers and talkback radio might look and sound now... 

4 Totos

Does exactly what it says on the tin

A pale yellow-meets-green colour reminiscent of grass that would make a farmer pray for rain, the first impression of this beer is that the salty sour/gose style was a genius move in order to replicate the seasoning of an avo smash. Apart from a gentle creaminess, however, the naturally subtle flavour of avocado takes a backseat to the lemon, salt and pepper notes, reminiscent of licking the plate after an avo smash rather than a bready mouthful. 

3 Ronseals

Final Thoughts

Refreshing, savourable [Is this a word now?!? – Editor], a tad more guacamole than avocado smash, but would go great with tacos either way!


Souvlaki Special Brew by Willie the Boatman

Pat McInerney behind the bar at Willie The Boatman's GABS-stand-meets-Greek-diner in Sydney, attracting eager onlookers from the neighbouring stand.


Brewer's notes

This was a combined effort from our brewers Joel, Alex and Tero, and the idea was to get behind something related to our local community. The local Greek community is vibrant in Marrickville and we wanted to brew something that represents that, while also wanting to test our creativity and push the envelope of what flavours can transfer into beer. 

We wanted to create the perfect beer pairing for all that wonderful Greek food available at our doorstep, while we also thought it might be a good beer for late night punters to enjoy. Beyond that, we think the ideal setting for this beer is that wonderful moment cooking a lamb souvlaki in the backyard. Nothing beats the smell of smoke and chargrill wafting from the BBQ through the air and smoking out the neighbours, filling everyone within a block with the sweet, intoxicating scents coming from your grill and, most importantly, surrounded by friends and family.

The base is a basic golden ale style, low on bitterness and hop character. There were numerous things to take into account while brewing this beer and trying to make it balanced while not having any faults – including several adjuncts added that could have had adverse effects if not handled properly:

  • Lamb Broth – made by a friend at a local restaurant who spent 48 hours reducing it down to the 15 litres needed and get the concentration of flavours, all the while skimming all the fat off. We then chilled this overnight to solidify any further fats left that we could skim, before adding to the brew, where any fats left would kill all head retention and render the beer flat. We added it to the boil stage of the brewing process and let it break down there to add the lamb flavour.
  • Herbs – We added sage, oregano and rosemary to impart the herb flavour and had to take into account that some of these herbs were more potent than others so had to be added in different proportions. We added dried versions of all these herbs to a huge, tea bag style sack and hung it to steep in the boil process for half an hour.
  • Salt – Added to the boil to add some extra saltiness to the lamb flavour
  • Lemon – We added 40 litres of lemon purée to the fermenter at the end of fermentation. This was not only to add that classic lemon flavour but also for balance – cut through and balance out the meaty lamb flavour that was present in the beer at this stage.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, or are we?

Aren’t lamb souvlakis just lovely? Hot meat and fresh lettuce in an ergonomic warp that makes you wanna say “Thanks, multiculturalism!”

Beer and late-night lamb souvlakis have an odd, co-dependent relationship where one usually follows the other but they are rarely actually seen together. Now they aren’t just side by side, they are holding each other tight beneath one bit of aluminium foil.

5 Totos

Does what it says on the tin

If you just sniff this beer (in the style of unwavering vegan Mick Wust) you have already got your money's worth as rich, fatty, lamby scents fill your well-honoured nostrils.

Souva lovers, don’t wear a hat when you drink this, it will fly off and hit a ceiling fan. You will taste an earthy mix of herbs and chargrilled lamb with oily, rendered fat that sticks on your cheeks, tongue and throat. 

5 Ronseals

Final Thoughts 

This tasted so much like a lamb souvlaki that I craved a can of Coke on the side.


Snap Crackle and Hop Milkshake IPA by Capital Brewing Co


Brewer's notes

The concept for this beer came from Alex Brown in the marketing team, and the idea was born after a few beers at the bar spent reminiscing on old times. Spitballing ideas for a GABS beer, we went through a few options but this one stuck. We felt the nostalgia element really made it a strong candidate – who doesn't love finding an LCM bar in their lunchbox? 

We knew that most people at GABS aren't there for your sensible beers. We had a few ideas but felt they weren't super strong or silly enough. This beer is ultimately brewed for the super-adventurous beer drinkers who are looking to try wacky stuff and think it can be used as a milk substitute in a bowl full of breakfast rice bubbles. Okay, that's a joke and, since it's a sweet beer, it's more suited as a post-dinner dessert.  

To brew it, we chucked salted caramel, marshmallow and lactose into the kettle. The only other unique thing was that we made up a tincture of rum for the vanilla beans and let those extract for a couple of days before dosing them into the fermenter.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, or are we?

LCM is not an acronym for Light & Crisp Mid-Strength (according to the fatcats at Kellogg's it doesn’t even stand for anything!) yet I went into this hopeful it would make a sweet and interesting beer. After all, I did feel like a big deal smashing one at recess and loved the real homemade deal during the school holidays.

2 Totos

Does what it says on the tin

You could burn your taste buds on a boiling black coffee moments before and still taste the creamy marshmallow sweetness in this slightly subdued IPA. There’s almost an unexpected bubblegum flavour hiding in there, popping out to hit your tastebuds right in the childhood.

3 Ronseals

Final Thoughts

It's just a bit of fun and you know what your mum said about too much of that...


Final Final Thoughts...

Aside from being a liquid love letter to the Greek flavours of Willie’s home in Marrickville, the hardworking and unmissable flavours in the Souvlaki Special Brew are uncannily balanced and worthy of some extra thoughts. Although I can’t see myself knocking back a four-pack of this, a lot of work went into this incredibly flavourful beer and every second of effort was worth it. 

Unique and ambitious, this is something a Greek Willy Wonka would make, Willy Wonkopolis if you will.

Willie The Boatman are hosting a Greek Festival later this month and the souva beer will be awaiting all in attendance (well, those who eat meat, at least). There are still tickets left for GABS in Melbourne and Brisbane too.

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