GABS Goes Global

GABS Goes Global

February 13, 2013 by Crafty Pint

When the concept was first launched two years and one day ago, the Great Australian Beer Spectapular (as it was back then) featured 20 new, unique beers being tapped for the first time at The Local Taphouses in St Kilda East and Darlinghurst. Last May, the organisers – acknowledging that they had outgrown their two venues – moved their beery extravaganza to Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building. There, armed with two shipping containers they had turned into mobile bars with 60 taps along either side, it morphed into the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular with close to 60 new beers being tapped for the first time that weekend, Including 20 from across the Tasman in New Zealand.

For its third outing, the event colloquially referred to as GABS has stretched its tentacles further still. Although still called the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular, the 2013 event features a number of international brewers from Europe, Japan and the US. Not only that, but the organisers hope to attract 100 or more never before brewed beers for the occasion and are adding a raft of other new features designed to tackle issues encountered at the 2012 event.

The organisers have confirmed that Australians Feral, Mornington Peninsula Brewery, Bridge Road, Murray’s and Wig & Pen have committed to brew a beer, with Kiwis Yeastie Boys (winners of last year’s People’s Choice Award for their awesome Gunnamatta), 8 Wired and Garage Project also planning to take part again. And, in what co-founder Steve Jeffares says is “one of the most exciting developments this year”, internationals including Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn, Thornbridge, Birra del Borgo, Mikkeller, Camden Town Brewery, Baird, Nøgne ø and Moylan’s have been invited to showcase a new beer too.

“This year will see a ‘Beer Market’ for the first time, where up to 60 breweries and industry related businesses can showcase their products and visitors to the event can meet and talk to some of the brewers behind the beers,“ says Steve. "It also means another way to access a great beer, minimising waiting time at the main shipping container bars, which have also been redesigned.”

Such changes have been brought in in part to alleviate issues with queuing, which at times in the busier sessions last year saw people waiting for an hour to get beer.

GABS co-founder Guy Greenstone “We’ll be transforming the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building into a grand beer hall again, but with the addition of the bustling Beer Market and food stalls now coming inside there’s even better ways of sampling and appreciating all the beers with your partner, friends or family.”

With last year’s event, which drew 11,000 punters over three days, attracting beers featuring chocolate, chilli, Ethiopian coffee beans, Earl Grey tea, rose petals, watermelon, rum and beetroot, who knows what will be thrown into the mix in 2013…

Brad Rogers, chairman of Australia’s Craft Beer Industry Association says: “Events like GABS not only offer a unique consumer experience to see the quality and diversity of Australian craft beer now available, but it also encourages people to travel and engage with their own local brewery or bar whether that’s in the regions, or their own city.”

A new website goes live and tickets go on sale through Ticketmaster tomorrow (February 14). GABS will run from May 24 to 26.

Q&A with festival co-founder Steve Jeffares


Steve (right) with Guy at their Local Taphouse in St Kilda East

Why the step up to more than 100 beers?
Last year we had many breweries who wanted to be involved but we unfortunately couldn’t accommodate them because of our 60 tap limit. We have introduced a quota system to ensure the vast majority of Festival Beers (more than 70 per cent) are Australian and come from around the country.

GABS will now be open for all breweries to register an Expression of Interest although the 60 breweries from last year’s festival have been given a first right of refusal to thank them for their support. In addition to the Kiwi beers, Australian breweries are going to be in stellar company as up to ten taps are reserved for the internationally-renowned craft breweries who have unbelievably agreed to brew a Festival Beer too. The Australian Homebrewer of the Year, Michael Wallace, will be also brewing a beer at Young Henry’s in Sydney.

What other changes are planned?
* The Beer Market
* We are working to have just two price points for all festival beers (sample and glass fill) as opposed to eight last year
* We’re working to speed up the entry process. We now have much fewer ticket types and wristbanding will be for only a few
* There will be some great new food vendors and all stalls will be moved indoors from the cold to better integrate with the festival
* Pete Mitcham and the Craft Beer College is returning with a variety of educational and informative seminars including the very popular Q & Ales where a selection of brewers talk about their GABS Festival Beer
* The introduction of the Brewers Choice Best Beer of GABS award to complement the People’s Choice Best Beer of GABS
* A Season Pass for GABS (entry to as many sessions as one person likes)
* The Official Guide will be back and may even increase in page numbers
* Breweries and others can advertise in the Official Guide which will be inserted into The Age
* There will be some traditional pub games around the venue
* We’ve changed our keg logistics company and will be working to support breweries who request keg assistance
* We’re avoiding Mother’s Day!

How will the queue issue be handled in busy sessions?
Last year we tried to develop a system so people could purchase all 60 beers at one spot in a conveyor belt fashion. This worked fine for much of the time but unfortunately at peak times it led to unacceptable queues with really only one entry point per container. At GABS 2013, each side of each container will be divided into three sections/bars with each selling about 18 to 20 beers and queuing in the conventional front-on manner. This increase the possibly entry points from two to dozens.

The introduction of the new GABS ‘Beer Market’ will see the perimeter walls of the festival hall lined with up to 60 breweries and related businesses selling and showcasing their products and visitors will be able to meet and talk to some of the brewers behind the beers. The Beer Market stalls, together with the Container Bars, will give festival-goers dozens more options to get beer quickly.

What will the cost be?
General Admission tickets are still $39 although Session one (Friday afternoon) is now just $30. Ticket & Token packages include $20 worth of GABS tokens and are recommended so people are well prepared as soon as they enter GABS. A new Season Pass is $85 and includes entry to all sessions plus $20 worth of tokens. Every person attending the AIBA dinner and the Craft Brewers Conference will also be given a complimentary ticket to Session 1.

What are you telling brewers concerned over the amount of unsold beer they or others had to take back after GABS 2012?
Last year we only had 60 Festival Beers on offer. We didn’t know how many people would turn up and how much beer they would drink plus we didn’t want to run out! We ended up with a considerable amount of beer left over which caused us (and regrettably some breweries) problems we didn’t envisage and ones we have worked hard to fix.

We’ve tried to keep it very simple this year. GABS is purchasing 5 x 50L kegs of every GABS beer (and allocating one per session) so the breweries are responsible for selling the remaining kegs to their existing customers – or at their cellar doors – once GABS is over.

Assuming most brewers won’t have the ability to brew five keg batches, they will have an amount of their GABS beer left post the festival to sell into the market. Working on a conservative estimate of participating brewers having 10 hectolitre systems and thus producing 20 kegs of the beer, that could lead to 1500 kegs of GABS-brewed beers hitting the market from May 27. It’s a hypothetical situation, admittedly, but do you think that could have an impact on beer supply?
The breweries are selected from all around Australia so surplus kegs will be spread across the country. Also, many of the Australian breweries have their own cellar door/bar operations where they can also sell their GABS beer.

Ultimately, each brewery will weigh up whether they can sell their surplus kegs. If they don’t feel comfortable with it, we hope they get involved in the GABS Beer Market where they can sell and showcase their regular range.


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