GABS is back - you'd be mad to miss it!

GABS is back - you'd be mad to miss it!

Craft Beer is where it's at, my friends. And you don't have to take our word for it. The statistics gurus, Roy Morgan no less, have got the data and it is all good news: while the downward trend in mainstream beers continues, more and more of us are consuming craft beer. Craft beer is so much the word on everyone's lips and the preferred tipple in bar, bistro and backyard these days, that the mainstream beers have taken to hijacking the term.

Luckily for us, the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular is here to take back ownership of the term, the philosophy, and the sheer awesomeness of the craft beer scene in Australia and NZ. Picture this: over 300 beers from 150 Australian and international breweries and some seriously good food in one fabulous venue. Add a silent disco, giant Jenga, carnival acts, and by far the most enjoyable educational seminars you've ever attended (want to swap your notebook for a tasting paddle, anyone?), and you've got an event you'd be mad to miss.

Guy Greenstone and Steve Jeffares of the renowned Local Taphouse bars in Melbourne and Sydney started GABS in 2012 and it just keeps getting bigger and better. We are especially stoked that this year Sydney gets its own GABS event. Melbourne might be considered the spiritual home of the craft beer scene in Australia, but Steve tells us that it's in Sydney and surrounds that specialty venues and breweries have really exploded over the last couple of years. Oh yeah, I hear you say, Sydney's infamous for jumping on board with a trend. But this ain't no mere passing trend and you're mistaken if you think craft beer is going to be the new front on which the tedious Sydney vs. Melbourne battle is going to play out. No way! Think of craft beer as a great uniting force, friends! And it's one that's here to stay in a big way as Australia continues to build its reputation and hold its own on the international scene. America leads the way with some 3000 craft beer breweries producing a huge variety but this is a good wake to be riding. As Steve reminds us, “a rising tide lifts all boats” and Australia and NZ are delivering the goods in terms of craft beers that can stand next to the best the US has got to offer.

The GABS guys totally get that sometimes the sheer quantity and variety of beers can be a little overwhelming and Guy and Steve go to a lot of effort to make sure that GABS is an event for everyone, and not something to be intimidated by. Sure, it attracts the hardcore craft beer aficionados but mostly it is an event for the casual beer drinker who is keen to get with the bigger beer picture and branch out a bit. And have a good time doing just that! Don't know your hops from your malt? Have no idea whether to match your curry with a dark stout or a pale ale? Haven't a clue about whether to swirl or spit? Don't stress. With the easy-to-follow GABS tasting tools, you'll be an expert in no time. Start by getting your hands on some of the tasting paddles which provide a great way to experiment and will give you the confidence to take some risks and explore the incredibly diverse array of flavors on offer - it's not called liquid courage for nothing, folks!

With food an integral part of the GABS experience, there is no need to worry about drinking on an empty stomach. With delicious grub from some of Sydney and Melbourne's top eateries (think Three Blue Ducks, LP Meats, Veggie Patch, Milk the Cow), the craft beer experience just gets more and more delicious. We reckon one of the best parts about drinking craft beer is pairing it up with a terrific feed and at GABS you'll get plenty of tips on how to make the most of matching your flavors.

If you really want to take a walk on the wild side of craft, then check out some of the beers brewed for the first time especially for the event. Whether it's oysters or orange peel, coriander or coconut, truffles or cherries, the one-off beers are pushing boundaries in both taste creation and brewing techniques like never before. And it's not just about novelty. Since launching GABS, 45 beers which started as one-off brews for the event have now been bottled. They include 'Gunnamatta' from the Yeastie Boys - an NZ beer made from Earl Grey tea which won People's Choice Best Beer at the 2012 GABS, 'Taco' from Melbourne's Two Birds Brewing, created with corn, wheat, lime and coriander, and Burleigh Brewing company's 'Hassle Hop' beer using five different varieties of hops.

You've got to get yourself to this event. Guy and Steve are seriously passionate about craft beer and about making it a truly democratic experience. This is not a niche event, but something for everyone, including, as Steve was keen to point out, women. More and more women are attending the event independently of their male partners (or they're the ones getting the guy along to GABS in the first place!) just as more and more women are embracing the terrific diversity of craft beers and their potential for creating culinary magic.

We are definitely not missing it, so you can bump into us at the Sydney gig where we will be hanging out in a purely non-professional capacity! We'll call it “research” but mostly we'll just be having fun and a good swig along with the rest of you. So round up some mates and some girlfriends and off you go!

Where:

Melbourne: May 22-24 Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton
Sydney: May 30, Australian Technology Park (Exhibition Hall), Eveleigh
Ticket prices: $35 (plus booking fee). Beer Buddies tickets from $29.75 (plus booking fee)
Tickets: on Sale from March 25 via www.gabsfestival.com.au


All pics courtesy of GABS.

Can't make it to Melbs or Sydney? Don't worry - beer festivals abound! Get along to the inaugural Adelaide Beer & BBQ running 10-12 July, check out the Fremantle Beer Festival for info about this year's event, or hang out for WA Beer Week in November. The Apple Isle has the Tasmanian Beer Fest, and the Tasmanian Micro Brew Fest has been confirmed for 26 September. If you're up QLD way, Bendigo on the Hop will be a blast on 1 August. 
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