What’s at GABS this year?

steve and guy

GABS co-creators Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone at last year’s festival.

Starting tomorrow, we have our annual Q&As with GABS brewers, where they talk about the special beers they’re brewing for GABS.

But today, GABS co-creator Steve Jeffares lets the readers of Beer is Your Friend know what to expect at this year’s event. Hint – it includes beer-flavoured ice cream.

Is there anything new about GABS this year?
There are plenty of improvements and we hope that’s the case every year as we conduct extensive surveys of attendees to help us shape the event. In 2014, a new VIP Food & Beer Experience on Friday night will blow your mind; session 1 is now known as P.O.E.T.S Friday and Sunday’s is Silly Hat Sunday; session times have all been extended except Session 1, which is shorter; every attendee will receive a GABS Craft Beer Passport with $360 worth of value to continue their craft beer adventure after GABS at leading beer bars, stores and breweries; there are more exhibitors at the newly configured Dan Murphy’s Market Place with many hosting an incredible schedule of mini-events at their stands; entertainment and games has been ramped up; several new food vendors have been added to the mix including Milk the Cow cheese fromagerie, Cryo Cremes (beer icecream), Huxtaburger and Fancy Hank’s BBQ; official GABS apps will be launched; and a Cask Bar allows attendees to try local Real Ales poured from traditional hand pumps.

Is the rule that all beers have to be made especially for GABS strictly enforced – or do you take a more relaxed approach these days?

For many people, the main element of GABS is the new beers launched at the event and we take that notion as seriously as the punters. Unless there are very extenuating circumstances, any Festival Beer commercially released before GABS in any way will be scratched from the line-up.

Last year I was too busy tasting beers at GABS to attend a Craft Beer College seminar. Was that a mistake on my part?
Definitely, among a wide variety of seminar themes, the Coopers Craft Beer College offers an opportunity for people to listen to more than 60 Australian and international brewers talk about their Festival Beer at the Q & Ale sessions.

How many beers can we try this year?
We’re still finalising numbers but we expect almost 120 new Festival Beers with about 75 per cent Australian. There are another 100+ beers at the Dan Murphy’s Market Place exhibitor stands.

Is it at the stage where you have to knock back breweries, saying ‘‘sorry, we can’t fit you in’’?
We’re very close with the Festival Beers as a cap of 120 is about right for now. We sold out of exhibitor stands at the Dan Murphy’s Market Place early and have a wait list.

Last year each section of a container bar served just 20 of the beers in an effort reduce queuing. Will we see the same set-up this year?
There are about 20 beers at each section of each container bar. We have found this is the most efficient way for the bars to operate.

Do you think GABS is preaching to the converted or does it broaden the appeal of craft beer?
I absolutely think it broadens the appeal of craft beer. The event attracts quite a bit of publicity and we believe that the majority of people who attend have only a casual interest in beer so GABS opens their eyes to a great craft beer experience. Even if we were preaching to the converted, I’m not sure it matters as there’s nothing wrong with a great big party celebrating the creativity of craft brewers!

Finally, do you wish someone else would organise it all so you could just sit back and try the beers?
Not at all. The reason we created GABS was to give a much larger number of people a unique and awesome craft beer experience. While we have a lot of help from a team people in organising the event, we feel the event benefits greatly from Guy and I working so closely on it. That said, we certainly plan to find more time in the later sessions to sit down and enjoy the occasion!

The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (aka GABS) is on in Melbourne on May 23-25, 2014.

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