Friday morning was the best of times and the worst of times.
Worst: I discovered that truck drivers like to park on the street outside my basement room window at 6am and throw bottles at the walls for a half-hour. At least that’s what it sounded like they were doing.
Best: I didn’t have a hangover. The plan to eat regular meals and carry a bottle of Gatorade around clearly made a difference. As, perhaps, did the intake of Berocca the night before and the bottle of water strategically placed in the bathroom to encourage a drink during midnight toilet trips.
The absence of a hangover was crucial as this was the busiest day of my trip. First up was a visit to the Queen Victoria Markets to buy presents for the family – can’t return home empty-handed when you have a five-year-old. I managed to get there earlier than planned, courtesy of the truckies’ early wake-up call. Having found a dress for my daughter and some ear-rings for my wife, I bought something for myself. That would be four bottles of beer to take home – which included a bottle of Hoegarrden’s Forbidden Fruit, which I’d never had before, or even seen on a shelf.
On the way back I stopped at Book Grocer (my favourist book store and bought six books for $50. On the way back to the hotel I wondered how I would fit the books and beer into my bags – given that I planned to buy more beer the next day.
After a quick stop at the hotel for something to eat – and to unload a stack of books and beer – I headed up to The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular. An event that features 92 never-before-made beers, scoring a media pass to the event was what sparked the whole Melbourne trip. And having that media pass meant I got in about 15 minutes before the punters. So I walked around and then sat and stared at the bars, wondering if I had to wait for a signal that the bars were open and whether it would be a bad look to start drinking before the doors were officially opened.
In the end I thought, “screw it” and got my first paddle of beers (each in an 85ml tasting cup) five minutes before everyone else walked in. I thought that was helpful because it meant I got served while the bar was empty, but I found out there was hardly a wait at any stage during that first session – I assume that’s because most people are at work on Friday and plan to turn up over that weekend (I heard reports that the weekend sessions were way busier).
I’d made a list of the 30 beers I wanted to try, with the aim of doing 15 of them in each session on Friday. That was wildly cautious as I ended up getting through all 30 in one session. Plus an extra paddle to use up the last row of tickets in my pocket. Plus three other free samples I got while networking in the beer market.
A few of those paddles were enjoyed with Tim from HopDog, who was down for the festival, and a few others with Darren, another Twitter friend I met in person for the first time. I wouldn’t bore you with details of all 25 GABS beers I tried, largely because the sum total of my notes are a few scrawled words on the festival program. I prove this by listing my top three beers and what I wrote on each of them.
1) Acid Freaks by Brewcult (a Baltic porter made with balsamic vinegar): “Like a sour porter. Great” and “vinegar is great with this”.
2) Taco by Two Birds (a hoppy wheat beer inspired by San Diego fish tacos – so it includes coriander): “definitely get the coriander. Yum”
3) Killer Python Kolsch by True South (a kolsch made with Killer Python lollies): “Yum!”
Incidentally, I had Acid Freaks in the first paddle and the other two right near the end. I think you can see the effect of numerous beer samples had on my notes. Especially regarding the Killer Python Kolsch (though True South is welcome to use that quote on any promotional products, if they wish).
Other highly notable beers were American Werewolf in Belgium (HopDog), French Kiss (Illawarra Brewing Company), White Chocolate Raspberry Pils (Bacchus Brewing), Hop Bomb IPA (Boatrocker), Hop To It Honey (Bridge Road), Death From Above (Garage Project), Citra Junior (Liberty Brewing), Breakfast By The River (Riverside Brewing) and Charlie’s Pitbull (Thirsty Crow and William Bull).
I’d happily drink any of those highly notable beers again – they were heaps tasty.
At the end of the first session, having tried all the beers I wanted to – and then some – I took Tim from HopDog up on his offer to turn up to his Good Beer Week event that evening. I told him I’d go have dinner at Mrs Parma’s at 4.30pm (which included a tasting paddle of six IPAs – three of which I hadn’t had before) and then duck over to my hotel across the road for a quick snooze before heading out.
I had planned to wake up at 6.30pm but, thanks to the early start that day and all the alcohol consumed, didn’t wake until about 9pm. So I missed the whole thing, which made me a little sad but I figured my body must have needed the rest. Also it needed to prepare for another day of beer drinking the next day.
Day Two Unique Beer Tally
GABS beers: 38 including three sampled at the beer market