The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (commonly known as GABS) may have started small at The Local Taphouse bar in Melbourne in 2011, but by 2018 more than 40,000 people were attending its 2018 events in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland.
GABS is regularly touted as the go-to beer festival, and has been judged one of the top 20 beer festivals in the world by influential US magazine The Beer Connoisseur.
Now it’s finally coming to Brisbane, taking over the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in April next year. The inaugural Queensland event will be held over two five-hour sessions, with as many as 7000 people expected to attend.
Co-founder Steve Jeffares said in a news release that it was the right time to bring GABS to Queensland.
“For us, GABS has always been about sharing our love of craft beer and cider with as many people as possible, so bringing the festival experience to Brisbane has long been on the agenda,” Jeffares said.
Brisbane-based beer expert and Australian Brews News founder (and occasional Broadsheet contributor) Matt Kirkegaard says GABS’s success is due to its focus on ensuring it’s inclusive for both purists and the craft beer curious.
“The approach is to … step outside the craft beer bubble and appeal to people, show them why beer is interesting and new, in a way that also includes people who are already part of the party,” Kirkegaard says. “They’ve just found this secret sauce to the festival that appeals to everybody in a way that is genuinely engaging.”
GABS stands apart from other beer festivals with its original brews. More than 160 beers and ciders were produced specifically for the 2018 event by attending brewers. Approximately 100 GABS-specific beers will be produced for the 2019 Brisbane leg.
“That is a unique element of the GABS experience,” Kirkegaard says. “Some brewers use it to pilot potential new releases … You can go there and try beers that you’ve never tried before. But a lot of brewers [set up interactive] stands, so you can go and meet the brewer and engage with their core range at the same time.”
The announcement of an inaugural Brisbane leg for GABS comes against a background of the rapidly expanding local craft beer scene. Of the 49 breweries that opened in Australia last year, 17 were in Queensland, with eight in Brisbane alone. Since then, Scottish brewery Brewdog and Byron Bay superstars Stone & Wood have both announced forthcoming local operations.
Kirkegaard says GABS was overdue to make it to Brisbane.
“Judging by the number of people who fly down to Sydney when GABS is there, or fly down to Melbourne, just to go to GABS, I really think it was overdue,” he says. “Brisbane’s already got a great homegrown beer festival, Beer InCider, of course. While it’s about beer it’s also evolved into a music festival that has great beer as part of it, so I think these two events sit really nicely side-by-side.”
GABS will take over the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on Saturday April 27, 2019.