Every year, beer geeks from around Australia assemble to participate in a one-of-a-kind beer festival. The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS) started in 2011 and showcases more than 300 different beers from local, interstate and international brewing companies.
It’s not just a chance to talk booze. For breweries, it’s also an excuse to get creative. One hundred and twenty one-off beers are produced for the event and they’re generally a little bit crazy. Breweries battle it out to win The People’s Choice Award, as voted for by attendees. The prestigious prize has been known to skyrocket smaller, unknown breweries into the limelight.
South Australia is in with a shot. Eight local craft breweries put up their hands in 2016 to take on the GABS challenge. If you can’t get to GABS, which isn’t coming to Adelaide, pay the individual breweries a visit instead. If you time your trip right, Cherry Ripe Porter and whale-vomit brews could be yours for the tasting.
Pirate Life Brewing Company
These hop-driven brews pack a punch and IPAs are the specialty. Pirate Life already have a 3.5 per cent mid-strength IPA, a 6.8 per cent standard strength IPA and an 8.8 per cent double IPA in their core range. They’ve decided to up the ante and hit the festival with a 14 per cent triple IPA, aptly named Loose Lips Sink Ships. With six different hop varieties thrown in, this beer will take your taste buds on a journey through sweet malts, potent hops and a balanced, lingering bitter.
Big Shed Brewing Concern
After placing third in the People’s Choice Award in 2015 with their Golden Stout Time, the Big Shed Brewing crew have decided to stick to the sweet-is-best strategy. The Cherry Ripe Porter was brewed with a chocolate porter base with fresh additions of coconuts and cherries. Lactose was then added to the beer during the final stages for balance.
Mismatch Brewing Company
The idea for the Negroni IPA came while the Mismatch crew were sitting in the Spanish tapas bar Udaberri and experimenting with beer with shots of Campari. Ordinarily that sort of tomfoolery is forgotten about by home time, but then head brewer Ewan Brewerton went back to work and started tinkering with an IPA-base beer. He added bitters, made by Sacha La Forgia from The Hills Distilling Company, along with the infusion of a citrus gin. Categorised as a speciality IPA, the Negroni IPA smells and tastes just like Italian bitter oranges and fresh citrus. It will be available after GABS at Dan Murphy’s in limited-edition six packs.
Prancing Pony Brewery
Prancing Pony has reached back into its German roots with the Sledgehammer Imperial Pilsner. It was a collaboration with Andreas Wagner, a master brewer who studied at Weihenstephan Bavaria, the oldest continuously running brewery in the world. Czech-grown Bohemian pilsner malt was used along with Magnum, Tettnanger and Hallertau hops to balance out the sweet malts. An old traditional Bavarian brewing method was used, in keeping with this very German-style beer. It’s said the Sledgehammer will grow hairs on your chest and give you the strength of a strong man.
Barossa Valley Brewing Company
Cherry Ripe must have been the flavour the month, as Barossa Valley Brewing Company has also created a Cherry Ripe Porter. This creation was designed and made in collaboration with the guys from the craft beer and whiskey bar, NOLA. It has been aged for several months in port barrels made by a Barossa Valley cooper. This Cherry Ripe Porter is said to be luscious, rich and nearing on the verge of being a stout.
With Vale Brewing’s entry this year, drinkers will be lured into a Purple Haze. A thick, chocolate stout with lavender additions in the early brewing stages and an organic lavender oil added in the resting stages. Head brewer Jeff Wright thought of the idea when he was indulging in some chocolate samples over the Easter break. Purple Haze registers just on the 6.5 per cent alcohol mark and tastes like eating lavender chocolate.
Robe Town Brewery
In the small coastal town of Robe, odd things wash up on the beaches. Ambergris (commonly known as ‘Whale Vomit’) is a prized commodity in some parts, most commonly used in the perfume industry. Robe Town Brewery owner Maris Biezaitis found a relatively fresh specimen on the local shore and decided to use it in an Imperial Amber Ale he’s named Moby Dick Ambergris Ale. Weighing in at 7.4 per cent, this beer has an animalistic aroma with hints of musky perfume. Expect to see this bottled and available for purchase after the event.
Pikes Beer Company
Pikes Beer Company has requested their entry remain a secret. We wait with bated beer breath.
A limited selection of these beers will be available afterwards in local bottle shops and hotels. Big Shed Brewing Concern, Barossa Valley Brewing Company and Prancing Pony will have their brews available after the beer festival at the brewery. To relive the magic, The Franklin Hotel is holding a ‘GABS Weekender’ with 15 taps devoted to GABS beers on June 4 and 5.
GABS takes place in Melbourne from May 20 to 22, in Sydney from May 27 to 28 and Auckland on Saturday June 18.