October 9, 2014 by 250 Beers
Brisbane is alive and flowing with good beer at the moment. It’s no big secret because us bloggery types keep shouting about it. From new bars to new beers to new beer blogs (14 at last count!) the veins and arteries of this City are pumping with brewed and fermented wonderment right now.
When a City has such a thirst to attend to beer events are organised and people they will come. The 250beers.com beer events calendar was working overtime throughout August and September with emails from reps and venues coming thick and fast. No sooner had I cleared my inbox and it was bustling again with submissions. Thirst world problems.
With such a busy schedule, Brisbane recently found itself with two whopping great big beer festivals in the space of a week.
The fourth annual edition of Archive’s Armakeggon was on Sunday 14th September with the inaugural two-day Beer InCider Experience at Albion Park Raceway the following weekend. I was fortunate enough to attend both and soak up the atmosphere in each case for a lengthy period yet I only really enjoyed one of them.
I can’t quite put my finger on what my beef was with The ‘Chive’s eight hour marathon. It was very well organised (as usual) and the 50+ beers and ciders on offer were all adequately rare enough to raise a beer geek boner in the loins of even the most impotent of craft beer fans.
Admittedly, I was well oiled before I arrived in West End. A celebratory ‘wetting the baby’s head’ pub crawl with a close friend and a small crew – incorporating Newstead Brewing, Green Beacon Brewing and Tippler’s Tap – beforehand probably wasn’t the best preparation for Armakeggon. Drinking a Brewdog Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32.0%) for breakfast may also have slowed things down a little. Although in saying all this, my frame of mind as I entered Archive was totally different to last year’s event.
All I wanted to do a year ago was get inside the venue ASAP and try as many new beers as my wilting liver could handle. I failed to drink enough water or eat properly throughout the duration of my session and the day turned into a ridiculous blur. I managed to drink 21 different beers before I headed home (predominantly 105ml tasters). This year, however, it was all about the whole day – with friends. A bigger picture if you will. Armakeggon was just a piece of the jigsaw that day and I wasn’t there to drink the place dry. Fact: I consumed only five drinks at Armakeggon this year and two of those were the same cider! Cider I said! CIDER!
I could be wrong but it seemed as though numbers were down on last year. I struggled to park my backside previously yet this time around there were chairs and stools aplenty. This isn’t a gripe of course. You won’t ever meet a bloke more keen than I to avoid a crowded shitfight.
The staff were great too. They were helpful, knowledgable about the beers on offer and were working to tight schedules with tap changes.
I think my gripe is that Archive feels a little bit corporate these days. It’s still a great place with a superb bottle shop but I feel somewhat uncomfortable there. Maybe it’s grown too big for my own personal taste? If anybody knows what I’m trying to say, please feel free to leave a comment below.
The Beer InCider Experience is a totally different type of festival and probably shouldn’t be compared to Armakeggon. It’s an outdoor event for starters and something that Brisbane hasn’t seen on this scale since…since…well, never. The old Story Bridge beer festivals were never as large and neither were the recent Fluid Festivals held at the Pig ‘n’ Whistle Riverside. The closest event in terms of size was the very well attended Beerfest at Eatons Hill in April this year but we’re talking ‘Brisbane’ here so, again, there probably shouldn’t be a comparison.
Daddy duties on Saturday 20th prevented me from getting to Albion. However, nothing was going to get in my way and stop me from experiencing the Experience on day two…especially as I was locked in to host a 10am Beer Blogging Workshop in a function room in the main grandstand.
I arrived an hour or so before the doors opened and was immediately impressed with the layout of the festival and the fact that the army of volunteers were already heavily involved with the hustle and bustle of setting up something so large – things such as assisting brewers get their shit together before thirsty crowds arrived to be quenched.
My Beer Blogging Workshop came about after event director, Marty Keetels, had approached me some weeks prior to the Experience asking for some assistance. The annual Eat Drink Blog conference was in town over the same two days as the beer and cider festival and, after a Saturday full of conferencing, Sunday had been earmarked for activities with one activity option for the delegates being a visit to the Beer InCider Experience. Who better to have a chat to them for an hour? Well, a beer blogger seemed like a good fit and that’s where I slid in.
It all went very well aside from the fact that I’d left my notes and handouts at home earlier that morning. Brilliant. To be honest the workshop was bulging with food and drink bloggers that possibly take their blogs far more seriously than I do so there was little chance of them actually learning about blogging techniques or social media antics from me. Instead, I harped on about me, beer, Brisbane and also the wonderful beer community that I’m proud to be a part of.
The delegates all received a tasting paddle of four beers that I introduced one by one. The fourth taster was Newstead Brewing Co’s Triple M collaboration – Lager Cino – which was instead introduced by the brewer himself, Mark Howes, who I owe a great deal of gratitude to for his help. Thanks also to Jason Bacon (that was my secret name for him that’s now not very secret) for his moral support and also to friend and busy socialite – Luke Shield – for his help too.
The delegates left that room high up in the grandstand with smiles on their faces keen to try more locally produced beer and cider downstairs at the festival. In turn, that put a smile on my face and it meant a job well done. Either that or they were smiling in relief that they had escaped from my beery grasp.
So, the festival itself…
For the first of Marty’s Beer Incider Experiences I reckon he pretty much nailed it. Great location, well laid out, plenty of mobile food truck options, well staffed, no queues (I don’t do crowded shitfights remember?) and free water – although I heard a rumour that the bottles were only free because there was a mountain of them left over from day one.
The toilet facilities were pretty good too! I had no issues with mess, aromas or queues. This might be insignificant to some festival goers however, let’s face it, we all like to relieve ourselves in relative comfort where possible don’t we(e)?
The one thing that stuck out as a little bit odd was the inclusion of burlesque dancers amongst the entertainment line-up. Whilst I respect what the ladies do as an art form, I struggled to get to grips with seeing boobies so early on in the day. Taking Nick from Chasing Ale’s suggestion forward into next year’s Experience might be a good idea. He reckons the burlesque dancing would have gone down a treat more in the evening rather than during daylight hours. I agree. I would have felt less awkward watching a brass band or a bloke on stilts juggling at 11am rather than tassel clad nipples. Maybe I’m getting old.
The rest of the live acts were brilliant. Not wishing to single out anybody in particular but Karl S. Williams was simply fantastic. His soulful voice and tunes were a charming fit for the occasion which transformed into a relaxing Sunday session.
The Beer InCider Experience had a rawness that appealed to me. It was a new thing. Ask me in four years time and I’ll probably say that it bores me and feels corporate!