Good Beer Week 2014 Episode 3 – A room with a brew(er) and the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS)1
June 24, 2014 by 250 Beers
Melbourne’s Good Beer Week was in fact only three days long for me. I headed down from Brisbane on Thursday 22nd May to overindulge in the final stages. The visit enabled the consumption of 95 beers of various sizes – 85 of them different, 72 of them unique to me. It also saw me take in a number of events – two of them major. I’ve decided to break up my experiences, shenanigans and memory loss induced skullduggery into a number of episodes. Episode one can be found here, two here and below is the third – ‘A room with a brew(er) and the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS)’…
I scrubbed up a little dusty on the Friday morning after the Australian International Beer Awards. It was the usual recipe of too much revelry, one too many beers and not enough water in between those beers. I hadn’t written myself off (which I rarely do) and, to be honest, I didn’t really have much of a hangover. It was one of those weary heads that a couple more hours of sleep would have resolved. There was no time for sleep though because four fifths of us ‘roomies’ in the hotel were booked in for a Good Beer Week event – the Hair of the Dog Breakfast presented by BeerMen.tv – coincidentally at Beer DeLuxe. We should have just slept there.
Our little group of tourists decided to walk the two kilometres to Federation Square predominantly as an effort to clear our fuzzy heads but also to enable Mark (Newstead Brewing Co.) to dose up on caffeine. I’ve honestly never seen anybody drink as much coffee as Mark. As we strolled the back streets of Melbourne’s CBD with our hot beverages in hand – or ‘hands’ as in Mark’s case (always multiple coffees) – I began to get a real sense of appreciation for the lane ways that Melbourne is renowned for.
We queued briefly in the autumnal air outside Beer Deluxe and it was evident that in such a short space of time during the early hours the venue had transformed itself from a spacious bar into a proper sit-down venue with tables aplenty.
The three guys from BeerMen.tv are Mark David, Steve Philp and Todd Venning and this was their fifth breakfast in Melbourne. The first one in 2010, so I’m told, was one of the events that inspired the formation of the very first Good Beer Week (2011). A few years later and the Hair of the Dog Breakfast is one of the key events that the Good Beer Week organisers pencil on the calendar.
It’s easy to see why and it’s equally obvious to see why this event sells out. Who wouldn’t want a gourmet five course breakfast, eight beers and a few laughs during a week of good beer especially the morning after the largest beer awards in the southern hemisphere?!
The food menu boasted items such as Woodbridge cold smoked ocean trout, pear and IPA mustard puree with shaved fennel and also house cured Wagyu with white anchovy and quail egg. There were no burnt rashers of bacon or deep-fried hash browns on show – although don’t get me wrong I would have eaten that – it was all top drawer culinary delights.
The beer offerings were superb too. As well as the Bridge Road Hefeweizen, the following beers were also served: Exit Brewing’s #001 Saison, True South’s Angry Argie golden ale, Give ‘Em The Clams – a gose by 7 Cent Brewing, Riverside Brewing’s 44 American Amber, Brew Cult’s Get Down American Brown, Moondog’s Love Tap lager and finally One-Shot Caffeinated Red Ale by the Rocks Brewing Co.
My breakfast ended early and abruptly for a number of reasons that I won’t go into. However, what happened next is sure to arouse a beer geek boner in most readers. I somehow ended up in a room, in a building, in Federation Square that had samples on offer – for free – of every beer submitted into the AIBAs. This event was not listed anywhere. It wasn’t public knowledge and yet there I was. I had two options; put my hand up, apologise for being there and exit…or…keep my head down and get stuck into some of the world’s craziest and rarest of beers.
I left of course.
Prior to trying a number of different beers, I headed straight for the 2011 vintage of Samuel Adams Utopias. It weighs in at twenty-seven percent a.b.v. Hello! I couldn’t actually work out why it was there. I can understand the 2013 version being present but why the vintages? I didn’t give a shit to be honest. It was rich, warm and boasted more characteristics of a spirit than a beer. It’s probably my most unique of unique check-ins on Untappd.
On the subject of unique check-ins I was then off to the opening session of the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS) at the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Carlton. Bearing in mind that this was my first visit to Melbourne and Good Beer Week you can imagine how much I was struggling to contain my excitement at the prospect of facing more than two hundred beers with in excess of one hundred festival beers brewed specifically for the event.
However, before that there was just enough time to be childish and stand in a group of grown adults, raise our middle fingers and appear on a large screen in Federation Square…
Having slipped through the media lane courtesy of the organisers (thank you guys!) I was amazed at the sight of the interior of such a magnificent old building. Such a perfectly spacious location to play host to thousands of beer drinkers and hundreds of different beers. I’d just arrived in heaven!
The festival beers were tapped in two shipping containers with approximately fifty taps on either side of each container. Each side of a container mirrored the other i.e. each container held approximately fifty beers and each beer was pouring on both sides. There was a container at both ends of the building. In between the two containers were stalls featuring lots of different breweries, brewers and their standard, non-festival beers as well a food court with an array of different foods.
I avoided the stalls during this session and dived straight in to suckle upon the festival teat. I took Glen’s advice and each time opted to fill my tasting paddles with a choice of beers selected from the same section. This avoided queuing more often than was necessary – even though the queues were never very long.
The place was buzzing. It was great to see such a throng of people smiling. It became infectious and I found myself grinning almost permanently. Heaven indeed.
Once the bell had rung to mark the end of the first GABS session a large group of Brisbanites congregated and subsequently marched in unison to Brother Burger for a feed. Brother Burger was – as I mentioned previously – the home of Queensland’s Pint of Origin for Good Beer Week. It seemed like the perfect venue for a hoard of Queenslanders to eat and continue drinking fine beer until the second session of GABS started. We had a couple of hours to kill.
After indulging in a Green Beacon Windjammer IPA and a burger – which I’d failed to do on my visit the day before – I, along with the other knights of the round table, hot-footed it back to GABS for the evening session.
I recall bumping into James from Beer Bar Band just inside the entrance of the grand building. I remember thinking that I’d interrupted him as he was about to queue up with an empty tasting paddle in his hand. Not wanting to delay his enjoyment I politely told him that I’d catch up with him later on. After quite a few beers I totally forgot about finding James. If you happen to read this, James, sorry!
After wallowing in the delights of trying a ridiculous amount of beers, a few of us left GABS to check out a venue called The Catfish. We headed straight to the upstairs bar where a live band was almost literally blowing the roof off. It was one of those occasions where there’s absolutely no point in attempting to talk to anybody – even by shouting into somebody’s ear at close range was futile. I was stood at the bar – my round – with a top choice of beers from New Zealand in front of me. Knowing that there was little point in asking what everybody wanted, the universal language of beer kicked in and I ordered half a dozen of a twelve percent IPA called Hopocalypse from Hallertau Brewbar & Restaurant.
That was it for me. The big, boozy IPA tipped me over my limit. After a fourteen hour day it was home time.
A few bottles of The Land of Plenty lager (from the AIBA’s the night before) were opened and shared around when we got back to the hotel. Room mate Gavin Croft found a science fiction movie on the television and we all fell asleep watching it. I awoke with a nauseous feeling and spied a sleeping Mark Howes with a glass of beer cupped in his hands – perched at a 45 degree angle and slowly decreasing. The lagery content was millimetres and milliseconds from ending up in his lap. I did the right thing and rescued it/woke him. I nearly didn’t – just for a laugh.
Bed time. Another big day ahead…
Stay tuned for Episode Four…