It must have been destiny that saw me attending the Canberra Small Brewers Festival last Saturday.
And no, I don’t think I’m overstating things by using the word ‘‘destiny’’. See, my wife is from Canberra and she was heading down with our daughter to visit family. I had the option of going along or staying home and enjoying a rare weekend to myself (I reckon anyone with at least one small child knows how valuable a weekend to yourself is).
But at the end of the day I decided to go along. And I swear that, literally, five minutes before I started packing the car on Friday afternoon I found out about Saturday’s festival via Twitter.
So obviously I asked the wife if I could go – and she said yes (possibly as a sort of reward for having just spent the week looking after the daughter for school holidays).
The festival was held out in a convention centre car park on a windy Canberra day, even though there was a perfectly good convention centre building nearby sitting totally empty. Apparently the organisers had tried to fit all the trestle tables in there but figured there wasn’t enough room for both them and the expected crowd. So the festival was the long line of tables you can see above.
At the festival I discovered two things.
A) Beer festivals are usually better when you know some of the people behind the counter. What happens then is – if you’re lucky- they’ll offer you quite generous pours for your tasting tokens. Or maybe even the odd full bottle.
B) It is becoming harder to find new beers at festivals. The more of a beer geek I become, the less I seem to be rewarded with new beer when I attend a festival. Walking down the line of tables, I mentally crossed off a number of breweries because I’d already tried everything they had on offer.
That isn’t to say there was nothing new under the sun. I did get to try HopDog’s Cosmic Highway through a fudge-packed randall and an oaked incarnation of their C-Bomb (the hops melded wonderfully with the shiraz and port flavours of the oak).
I also had the chance to try a few beers from Clare Valley Brewing Company, who I didn’t even know existed. I liked their pale ale enough to buy a bottle of it (and the rest of their range) at a nearby bottle shop.
Bullant Brewing – another beer festival participant – had some beers in that same bottlo that they weren’t offering at the festival. I bought those, even though I wasn’t overwhelmed by the beers of theirs I did try at the festival.
The big lesson I learned from the festival was very much related to point B. From now on when I go to a beer festival, I really have to lower my expectations about how many beers I haven’t had that will be there. Because I’ve been going with the idea that virtually every single beer there will be something new.
But, I’m always seeking out new beers anyway so there is very much a law of diminishing returns. The more new beers I try away from beer festivals, the less likely I am to find any new ones at festivals. That said, as long as I think there is the chance of trying even one new beer, I’ll be there for sure.