Beer Travel: The South West Craft Beer Festival

Beer Travel: The South West Craft Beer Festival

February 19th, 2013 by Crafty Pint

It was a very beery weekend here in the South West, more so than usual for an area with more microbreweries than anywhere else in the country, as thousands of craft beer drinkers descended on 3 Oceans Wine Company for the second annual South West Craft Beer Festival.

The weekend-long event attracted more than 3000 people, a significant increase on last year’s inaugural event. A lineup of South West music acts like The Acitones and Boom! Bap! Pow! kept the crowd tapping their toes, whilst eleven breweries, one cidery and plenty of local food vendors kept the crowd from going thirsty and hungry.

With dozens of beers and cider on offer, it was considerate to the liver that there was an entire weekend to make friends with all of them. For anyone who attended both days it was a tale of two festivals with Saturday hosting the bulk of attendees, and a younger, enthusiastic crowd, while Sunday was a far more chilled day. Event organisers Buzz Marketing repeated last year’s format by making Sunday a family day with a dedicated kids area and a bouncy castle which contained a lot of screaming children. The music was more subdued and the crowd significantly thinner than the masses from Saturday which provided a greater opportunity for brewers to engage punters and talk about their beers.

The Saturday opening of the festival got off to a rough start with a long queue at the gates due to a fault in the ticketing system and reports of waits of up to an hour quickly emerged.

“Good things come to those who wait,” was the mantra – and there was certainly no shortage of good things once punters got their wristband, their South West Craft Beer festival glass (actually it was plastic but hey, it’s a festival) and beer tokens. Craft beer fans were faced with the happy problem of trying to decide where to start their journey through the breweries of the south west, collectively serving in excess of 30 brews.

South West favourites Bootleg Brewery) were pouring Wils Pils, Sou’ West Wheat and a limited amount of their current limited release, the Bramling Cross. This is a blackcurrant tea infused ale made using imported Chinese tea and, as the name suggests, largely features the English hop variety of the same name. With soft yet distinctive blackcurrant aromas the ale was a beautiful balance of fruity and tart and proved so popular they had to stop serving it on Saturday to ensure there was some for the Sunday crowd. Bootleg’s Raging Bull was tapped in its place to the delight of many existing fans.

The team at Colonial Brewing) were joined by the King of Oysters Jerry Fraser to showcase their favourite beer and food pairing of Colonial Kolsch with a freshly shucked oyster. Juggling a beer and eating an oyster at the same time is not the most elegant look, but the combination of the two was well worth the effort – delicious!

Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery were pouring a couple of their regulars, including the Hagenback Belgian IPA, and also showcased their latest release in their Southern Wailer seasonal range. Head Brewer Jared Proudfoot has created a limited release ginger pale ale using a kilo of fresh ginger and American hops, specifically Columbus and Centennial. The result is a moreish American Pale with undeniable hits of ginger that sit perfectly beside big resiny citrus hops.

German inspired Duckstein Brewery also brought along something special from brewer Shannon Grigg. Entitled “Unbekannt” – German for ‘unknown’ – it references the hybrid nature of the beer, not fitting neatly into a particular style. Shannon has used Belgian yeast and German malt to create a funky little ale boasting chocolate, toast and red fruit flavours. Their Pilsner, soon to be released into bottles under contract with Gage Roads, was drinking beautifully under the summer sunshine too.

Both Cowaramup Brewing) and Eagle Bay Brewing) brought along their limited release summer ales. Jeremy Good, Head Brewer at Cowaramup Brewing, revived his famous Lightsign for another summer and it just wouldn’t have felt right if he hadn’t had his award winning Cowaramup Pilsner on tap. The Eagle Bay Summer Ale is Nick d’Espeissis’s next brew in their Single Batch series using all Australian Galaxy hops.

Daniel and Josh from Bush Shack Brewery quickly ran out of their annual Christmas release, the Old Saint Nick, a rich and moreish version of their Yallingup Old. Thankfully they had plenty of their other brews to satisfy the crowd. Punters also got the chance to reaquiant themselves with favourites from other local breweries such as a honey pale ale from Brew 42, Old Coast Road Brewery’s award winning porter, Margaret River Ale Company’s White Ale and Occy’s Brewery selection of their regular beers.

The guys from Custard Cider in Donnybrook were the only cidery on the bill but made a big impact with many repeat offenders visiting their tent. Tom and Ian are passionate about their ciders (especially their wild ferment version) and look forward to opening their new restaurant, The Cider Room, near Meelup in a few weeks.

Saturday wrapped up with the announcement of the People’s Choice Award, a first for the festival, whereby votes from the public were counted to reveal a top five. A panel of four judges then helped narrow the list of five to one winner. The trophy went to Colonial Brewing for their Kolsch, with General Manager, Richard Moroney accepting the trophy. The panel of judges consisted of West Australian beer writer Vic Crossland, Brew News, Menu Magazine and Crafty Pint contributor Jeremy Sambrooks, President of the WA Beers Association Brian Fitzgerald and some girl with a blog called girl+beer who occasionally writes for Crafty Pint…

Beer wasn’t limited to the brewers tents, as Chef DeBeersine and The Brewers Dray showcased their beer inspired foods to an eager crowd. Mitch of Chef DeBeersine served up his delicious beer cheese, created using pale ale, with hop honey and fresh bread. Mitch creates his hop honey using Saaz hops for its lower alpha acids to not impart too much bitterness. Mitch was also doing his spicy goat ball sub with fresh coriander and spring onion which was a talking point amongst both punters and other stalls. Husband and wife team Matt and Mara Allen from The Brewers Dray presented their beer preserves. Their Spiced Stout Chutney features Australian stout and real Australian hops are used to create their Tomato Chilli Hopped Relish.

The South West Craft Beer Festival puts the spotlight on to the South West’s passionate breweries and the teams of people behind them. In a testament to the wide reach of craft beer there were both young and old who turned out to support their local breweries, sample a few beers and enjoy the atmosphere of a unique beer festival. Hopefully from here the festival continues to grow, improve and provide a platform for consumers to discover the great craft beer of the South West.

In the words of Eagle Bay Brewing: “Hear, hear for handcrafted beer!”

Pia Poynton
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A punter’s perspective

Neil Dodd was one of the winners in the Crafty Pint newsletter competition. He picked up a double weekend pass donated by the audience and sent us this tale of his roadtrip to the festival…

“So we headed off for a casual three hour drive from Perth to 3 Oceans winery in the South West town of Metricup, about 20 kms before Margaret River. We started to get worried as we were driving into a lot of dark rain clouds. The rain didn’t hang around long and by the time we got down there it had all stopped and the staff were busily drying off the tables. The weather however was very Melbourne like, four seasons in one day, but once the sun came out it ended up being the perfect weather for the day. The wind didn’t let up, which was ok, except for the hay bales that were being used as seats. You had to keep one hand on your beer so it didn’t blow away or get filled up with flying hay…

“The setup was the same as last year, which is fine, so my mate, Ken, and I started having our free samples. Having tried most of the beers before I set out to find ones I hadn’t tried. Bush Shack Brewery’s Old Saint Nick – a strong Scotch Ale tasted much smoother than most Scotch Ales I have tried. Certainly one to end the night with. However, the standout beer for me was from Bootleg Brewery. Their new Bramling Cross, blackcurrant tea infused beer, had a slight blackcurrant aroma. Just enough to know what’s in it, but not enough to overpower the beer. The taste is very similar but made the beer very smooth. Definitely a very sessionable beer in my opinion, and one I hope they will continue to brew.

“We got there at 11am so the lovely and extremely talented Kate Tillman was on stage, and her voice and multi-instrumental skills blew me away. She played covers and the first was a magnificent version of "Laura” from Bat for Lashes. Kate’s set was followed by blues and roots singer songwriter, Rob Walker. His upbeat music and enthusiasm really woke up the crowd, that and his stomp box, and definitely got everyone listening and moving. I would really like to see more music next year, and maybe one or two more well known bands on to attract a bigger crowd. Not that the local talent didn’t do an outstanding job.

“The food was fantastic again, especially the mobile food van run by a German expat selling beautiful German food. We had the Geschnetzeltes which is basically salad, with creamy pasta, mushrooms, bacon and topped with grilled beef strips. Fantastic!”

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