It’s that time of year again. The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular is here and this time round it heads out west.
Departing from the much-loved Australian Technology Park, GABS Sydney 2017 heads to Olympic Park. It’s a new venue but the festival promises to be bigger than ever.
There are now over 150 beers and ciders, with an extra “kegtainer” this year. It also sees the enormous ferris wheel, a beloved feature of the Melbourne festival, land in Sydney for the first time.
It’s sure to provide a fun new attraction, particularly for those experiencing the festival for the first time.
Tips For GABS
I’ve written in previous years about how to approach the festival and many of those pointers still apply, particularly for first timers. You can read the guide book, download the app, and plan some paddles if that’s your thing.
But each year I’m more inclined to just go with the flow. I think being open to opportunity and unexpected experiences is where the greatest value and enjoyment comes from at festivals like GABS.
Try a few paddles, enjoy a few full glasses of beers that you like or find interesting, and then get out and about. Chat to brewers, to other punters, go to some of the events and just have a great time.
While the educational events and the food are fantastic, this year’s preview focuses on the beer. Below are the beers from Sydney and New South Wales producers that will be worth keeping an eye out for.
Sydney Beers At GABS 2017
#3 – 4 Pines Brewing Co Hidden In Plain Sight
As clear and filtered a beer as you’re likely to see. It’s the “anti-craft”, featuring tetrahop, hop oil, isinglass finings and distilled roast essence.
- #9 – Akasha Brewing Company Lupulin Fog
Who else would you want to hop on the NE IPA bandwagon than Akasha? Expect hazy, yellow-orange liquid with juicy hops, creamy malt and low bitterness.
- #13 – Australian Brewery Kiwi Fruit Tart
A kettle sour with the addition of kiwi fruit juice.
- #18 – Batch Brewing Company A Currant State of State of Infusion
Yirgacheffe coffee cold was steeped in a dark sour beer. Expect a harmony of roasted coffee, citrus fruit and blackcurrants.
- #34 – Bucket Boys Craft Beer Co Red Velvet
Last year’s Red Stout wasn’t a festival beer but was one of the beers of the festival. They’ve tweaked the recipe, dialling in some vanilla, cacao and lactose to make a dessert beer.
#52 – Doctor’s Orders Brewing Homeostasis
Following the gin experiments of Tonic, this is a cloudy Belgo-French saison with gin botanicals and a cucumber juice finish.
- #54 – Ekim Brewing Co Powder To The People
An ode to Simcoe using pure lupulin powder to create an experimental interpretation of a west coast IPA.
- #60 – Frenchies Kiss From A. Rose
An aromatic biere de garde style beer, with the focus on subtle wheat and malt flavours and yeast esters. Kissed with white rye from Archie Rose.
- #68 – Holiday Brew Co Mango Milkshake
Packed with Aussie mangoes, liberally dry-hopped and dosed with lactose to give a creamy milkshake texture.
- #75 – James Squire Mint Heist
Using candy sugar and peppermint candy to make a boozy peppermint Belgian strong ale.
- #84 – Merchant Brewing Company Fruit Tingle
Inspired by the infamous cocktail, it’s a purple sour beer using a tea blend, a touch of lactose, and flavours of citrus fruits and berries.
- #88 – Modus Operandi Cascadian Howl
A black IPA showcasing the piney, fruity flavours of Pacific Northwest hops.
- #99 – Nomad Brewing Co Reeling Teeling Tipsy Convict
A blend of imperial stouts from Nomad and Birra del Borgo, aged in Irish whiskey barrels.
- #113 – Riverside Brewing Company Smokey Martini
Taking a martini as inspiration but replacing vermouth with a smokey single malt scotch. Featuring peat and oak smoked malt and a range of native botanicals.
- #114 – Rocks Brewing Company The Captain
Inspired by convict era health tonics, this is an aromatic root beer featuring a secret recipe of herbs and spices.
- #118 – Shark Island Brewing Co At The Coalface
This is a berry, cherry, vanilla black IPA using a jam of local handpicked mulberries and lots of American hops.
- #119 – Shenanigans Brewing Co Flower Power
A light kettle sour which, instead of hops, uses a bouquet of flowers including hibiscus, jasmine, lavender, rose petals and chamomile.
- #122 – Staves Brewery Aurora/Riwaka Smash
SMASH means Single Malt And Single Hop. Aurora is the malt and Riwaka is the wonderful Kiwi hop from the north of the south island.
- #123 – Stockade Brew Co The Mountie Maple Imperial Stout
A very boozy beer with bold chocolate, raisin and roasted malt flavours, as well as a lot of maple syrup. A lot of maple syrup.
- #136 – Wayward Brewing Company Funky Hoppy People
Last year’s Funky Pineapple Hand Grenade was my beer of the festival. They’ve brought back the brett for this one, layering funk on top of big tropical and stone fruit hops!
- #141 – Willie the Boatman Marvin Berry’s Choc-Milk Stout
A chocolate lactose stout with heaps of strawberries and raspberries.
- #145 – Young Henrys Blanche Devereaux
A Vienna lager steeped with French Earl Grey tea and infused with rose and marigold petals.
- #146 – Yulli’s Brews ‘Gilbert’ Pinot Grigio Wild Ale
Spontaneously fermented with grapes from Gilbert Family Wines. A balance of wine and beer with lactobacillus souring and brettanomyces funk.
New South Wales Beers At GABS 2017 (Non-Sydney)
- #12 – Australian Beer Co Nitro Cherry IPL
An India Pale Lager, aged in oak wine barrels for three years and topped off with cherries.
- #16 – Badlands Brewery M.A.D. Stout
A chilli, chocolate, finger-lime stout? It certainly ticks all the GABS boxes. MAD because it draws on flavours from Mexico, Australia and Dublin.
- #57 – FogHorn Brewhouse Dubbel Raisin Extra Stout
A complex stout using British malts and Belgian yeast. Packed with raisins but also flavours of banana, coffee and chocolate.
- #71 – HopDog BeerWorks Pandapoppinfairyturkishfloss
A boozy Belgian stout with Turkish delight, popcorn, lactose and fairy floss. Yes, really!
- #72 – Hope Brewhouse The King’s Nuts (PB & C)
A peanut butter and chocolate brown ale.
- #80 – Little Brewing Company Chocolate On Rye
Complex malts showcasing chocolate and spice flavours go into this dark Belgian-style beer.
- #94 – Murrays Craft Brewing Co Brown Town
A malt-driven brown ale with coconut, almonds and cocoa nibs.
- #97 – New England Brewing Co The Smoldering Stump
Inspired by wilderness camp fires, this beer features local malt smoked using the bark of native hardwoods.
- #121 – Six String Brewing Company Purple People Eater
A unique and fruity take on the New England IPA from the Central Coast brewery.
- #125 – Stone & Wood Brewing Company Salty Sour East
An “imperial gose” with black limes, Murray River salt and Bambarah yoghurt for the kettle souring.
- #128 – Thirsty Crow Rocketship IPA
An American IPA using Meridian hops from Oregon.
- #132 – Two Heads Brewing Cult of Dionysus
A collaboration with Renzaglia Wines, this uses Semillon grape juice and is fermented with a concoction of ale yeast, sparkling wine yeast and wild microflora.
Other Beers Of Note
- #7 – AIBA (Australian International Beer Awards) Citrus East Coast IPA
A collaboration between AIBA Champion breweries, Stone & Wood, Two Birds, Pirate Life and BrewCult, this beer is heavy on the hops.
- #8 – AIBA Champion Australian Amateur Homebrewer Dubbel Date
Toffee, caramel and raisin flavours combine with light spicy notes in this beer from the Champion Amateur Homebrewer.
- #107 – Pink Boots NZ Grateful Grapefruit
From the Kiwi collective of female beer industry professionals, this is a light and drinkable beer with zesty citrus including tart grapefruit.
- #120 – Sierra Nevada Bombastic Monastic
Despite the challenges Sierra Nevada have faced recently, it’s still something of a big deal to have them put their name to a beer at a festival down under. It’s exciting to see.
There are plenty of other exciting beers from around Australia. The likes of Feral, Two Birds and Pirate Life will be popular as always.
A full list of all the festival beers and ciders can be found here.
Trends In Beer Styles
Looking through the beer list it’s easy to identify a few trends. In fact, GABS often provides a good snapshot of how the beer landscape is going to shape up over the next year or two.
What’s clear here is that fruited kettle sours are still a big thing and look set to continue that way. The other trend is the culinary inspiration for many beers, not just limited to dessert flavours but also beers that match well with Asian food.
Mangoes feature prominently, particularly in the form of fruited lactose beers, evoking the flavour and mouthfeel of a lassi.
The craze of New England IPAs has really hit Australia over the last few months and it’s no surprise that many of the 2017 festival beers take this as inspiration. In fact, the IPA juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down with a large proportion of festival beers being hop-forward, higher ABV styles.
Typically for GABS, adjuncts continue to play a large role, particularly as brewers try to make their beers stand out on the list. This fits in with the continuing GABS trend of dessert stouts.
What’s nice to see is a focus on native ingredients as producers tap into the vast array of ingredients that are available to us in Australia.
It obviously goes without saying that (responsible) enjoyment of the event is the most important thing. Enjoy the food, enjoy the festivities but most of all enjoy drinking great beer with like-minded people.
I’ll be there again this year so let me know if you’d like to chat. Leave a comment below if you’re attending GABS Sydney this year.
GABS Sydney 2017 is at the Sydney Showground on Saturday 27 May.