Girl + GABS

This year saw 90 unique beers hit the taps! Combined with lots of old favourites from dozens upon dozens of brewers, it was enough to blow my Untappd count into the next century (if I could be bothered updating it frequently of course!)

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The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, aka GABS, was held at the Melbourne Royal Exhibition Hall on Friday 24th – Sunday 26th May. It coincided with the last three days of Good Beer Week so I deliberately didn’t booked any GBW events for my partner and I on Saturday so it could be our “GABS day”.

GABS is the brain child of Steve and Guy, the guys behind The Local Taphouse venues in Darlinghurst and St Kilda. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve and Guy when I visited GABS. They are obviously passionate about craft beer and about providing the right platform for consumers to enjoy, discover and share.

Thursday GABS

So, what is GABS? I’m glad you asked – it’s a beer festival that celebrates brewing creativity. At the heart of the festival are the GABS beers – those which are brewed specially for the festival. This year saw 90 unique beers hit the taps! Combined with lots of old favourites from dozens upon dozens of brewers, it was enough to blow my Untappd count into the next century (if I could be bothered updating it frequently of course!). And it wasn’t just Australian brewers showing off, breweries from the United States, the UK, Italy and Aussie neighbours New Zealand also showed off their brewing flair.

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The folk at GABS were kind enough to provide me with a media pass for the event and our friends at Eagle Bay Brewing provided my partner with a ticket. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I love the beer community, their generosity knows no bounds. Thank you Steve and Guy, thank you Margi and Adrian.

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Best Beer of GABS

The “best of” categories fell into two categories – People’s Choice and Brewer’s Choice.

My vote for the People’s Choice Best Beer of GABS went to the collaboration brew from Moon Dog / Nøgne Ø – Selvmordstokt, a cherry wheat porter. Gorgeous black cherry, coconut and chocolate, a little funky and a whole lot yummy.

The winner was Bacchus Brewing White Chocolate Raspberry Pilsner and sadly one I didn’t have! I did try their White Chocolate Pilsner at Dejavu as part of Pint of Origin and very much enjoyed it. I even thought it had a touch of raspberry to it, perhaps it was my palate trying to tell me something about the future. Congratulations to Bacchus, hopefully we see this make it into their regular line up for more folks to enjoy.

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The winner of the Brewer’s Choice went to a brewery who must have a hell of a trophy cabinet these days – Feral Brewing for their Barrique O Karma. Being one of my favourite brewers and from my home state, I made sure I didn’t miss out on this one. It had a soft and sweet maltiness and the nose on it was great. Being that it’s based on their Karma Citra, a black IPA, that I have enjoyed many times it’s unsurprising I really liked this one.

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More Beery Highlights

Staying with Feral, their collaboration with Richard from The Wig & Pen (ACT) was appropriately called ‘Pig Pen’ tipping its hat to both breweries (not that pigs wear hats of course … actually maybe some do) it was called a ‘free range ale’. What does this mean? I’m not sure, perhaps it comes from the ingredients reading like a global shopping list or perhaps simply because they didn’t brew it to a specific style. Regardless of the reason it is a very good drop. Slightly tart, refreshing and with great drinkability. It was the first beer I wrote “yum” beside.

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Two Birds Brewing (VIC) Taco, “a hoppy wheat beer with inspiration” or as I wrote it “wheat beer with omf”. Twitter and crackbook had provided a few insights into this beer so I knew to expect lime and coriander and that’s exactly what I got. It was inspired after eating fish tacos in San Diego and so I’m not sure whether I read this and expected to taste corn chips or whether I really could taste corn chips. Either way, damn good beer!

Birra Del Borgo (ITA) won me over with their fabulous name – Myrtle’s Bunga Bunga Party. A spiced ale that was just lovely with honey and almost nectar sweetness. Also oddly moreish.

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Speaking of fun names, Cacao Cabana from Eagle Bay (WA) and The Monk (WA) had a smushed banana flavour going on with soft chocolate notes buried inside. It was like peeling back the layers on a dessert!

Gary the White from Colonial Brewing (WA) was a white stout, dry and rich, the flavours were all strangely familiar packaged in the unexpected. Fab!

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The GABS beer from Steve ‘Hendo’ Henderson’s Brewcult had been a bit of a talking point in the lead up to the event. A collaboration brew with Steve’s brother, a craft vinegar maker, it was described as porter infused with barrel aged balsamic vinegar. The aptly named “Acid Freaks” had the beer geeks intrigued. I had met Hendo by chance a few days earlier and asked how Acid Freaks had turned out. He simply replied that he didn’t want to say too much and inadvertently influence peoples opinions but he would say he was happy with it. My notes read: “soft tang, weirdly stunning”. The all important balance of sweet and bitter was spot on. God I hope he sends some to WA.

Taking me back to my childhood, the Duckstein (WA) Porter tasted like lamingtons. I love beers that evoke my memories and this beer did exactly that.

So many beers …. god that was amazing! Thank you GABS, loved every minute!

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Colonial brings Gary to GABS

Here is a short Q&A with Colonial Brewing head brewer Justin Fox about their GABS beer – a white stout called “Gary the White”.

Good Beer Week is well and truly underway! It’s halfway through the week and thus far I’ve not ended up curled in a ball in the corner of a pub somewhere so I’m considering that a win. It has been amazing, so much great beer, interesting and funny people and food that makes you want to overindulge so badly that it would result in being in the hospital but you’d think “that was totally worth it”.

In amongst a huge number of events lies a beer festival, just to make sure your liver was a quivering mess by the time the week was done. The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (aka GABS) happens at the tail end of Good Beer Week so they let you warm up to it which is considerate/evil.

Plenty of south west breweries are getting in on the action for GABS, you can check out a run down by some chic at Crafty Pint.

Meanwhile here is a short Q&A with Colonial Brewing head brewer Justin Fox about their GABS beer – a white stout called “Gary the White”.

What was the inspiration for it?
It was only my first week at the brewery and we decided to get involved with GABS, and that meant brewing that week for the beer to be ready in time! We wanted to take the opportunity to thank departing brewer Mal Secourable for his friendship and great work at the brewery over the years. When we noted his car park space is actually named “Gary the White” the beer just sort of rolled on from there…

What flavours are you aiming for?
We are aiming for a creamy, warming stout, as light in colour as we can muster, with hints of roast and espresso.

What will be/was the most challenging part of this brew?
Balance is an issue for any first crack at a new recipe, but I think our biggest challenge is to get some malt complexity into the beer without introducing any colour. The same goes for getting some roast / coffee flavours.

Which malts and hops are you using and what made you choose these?
We ended up with a decent mixture of pale malts, each one to try and introduce another layer to the final body and we stayed down the English path for the hops.

Which other GABS beers are you looking forward to trying?
I actually only know of a few others at this stage, both of which captured my interest. Eagle Bay and the Monk are getting together with a chocolate concoction which looked good on the twitter feed. The other is my old assistant brewer Renn Blackman from the Monk. He is doing a large scale of an experiment he did with some leftover wort a few years back, the Killer Python Kolsch! The small was surprisingly tasty so looking forward to trying the reincarnation!

If your GABS beer was a person, what outfit would he/she be wearing?
Ah, therein lies the great mystery of “Gary the White”… nobody knows!

GABS – Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton | 24-26 May
Colonial Brewing Gary the White is beer number 24, available from Bars 1 & 2, Section 2
Grab an official guide or jump online