We give up. For the past couple of years we’ve done our best to summarise the Good Beer Week program. But really, it’s become too vast. This time, we’ve decided on a new approach: choosing six events that best represent what makes the nine-day festival so special.
If you’ve never been, understand that it’s so much more than just a few limited-edition beers appearing at pubs across town. Famous brewers are flown in from Europe and the US to talk about their products. Star chefs devise once-off menus to be matched with beer at venues such as Vue de Monde, Pope Joan and Green Park. Most of this stuff can’t be experienced outside of the festival.
Then there are scavenger hunts, homebrew workshops, movie screenings, mountain-bike rides, quasi speed dating and a range of other events where good beer is the backdrop, rather than the focus. In other words, you don’t have to be a beer enthusiast to get involved.
The Circle of Life … From Grain to Grass to Pork to Glass
Since Bluebonnet Barbecue burned down, owner and chef Chris Terlikar has spent his time cooking at various pop-ups around town.
If you’ve attended any, you’ll know he’s capable of much more than the slow-cooked meats he’s known for. He can deliver complex, technique-driven dishes close to a fine-dining standard.
At this two-sitting event, he’ll prepare an exclusive menu matched with five beers from Stone & Wood. The twist? All the meat was raised on spent grain from the Byron Bay Brewery. Terlikar and Stone & Wood’s Ross Ryan will talk you through everything you’re eating and drinking.
From 7pm to late, Tue May 17 and Wed May 18 at Bluebonnet Barbecue, 32 St George’s Road South, Fitzroy North. $120
Whisk(e)y, Cheese & Beer – La Sirène with Richmond Hill Larder
Here’s an event you could technically run at home – if you were a beer, whisky and cheese expert with plenty of cash. Instead, stump up $55 and you’re down for six cheeses from Richmond Hill Larder, six matched beers from Alphington brewery La Sirène, and matched whiskies selected from Boilermaker House’s 500-strong collection.
All three teams will be on hand to explain what you taste. Speak to people passionate about beer, and they’ll tell you it’s actually a much better match for cheese than wine – La Sirène’s rustic, slightly pongy ales especially so. This event (and any of the dozen other cheese events in the program) will prove that.
From 6pm to 8pm, Mon May 18 at Boilermaker House. $55.
Intro to Wild Beers with 2MT
Like natural wine, the concept of sour beer (also called wild beer) still confuses a lot of people. There’s no better person to bring you up to speed than Ashley Huntington, the eccentric owner of Tasmanian brewery, Two Metre Tall.
Once a pariah of the industry, changing attitudes towards wild beers have seen Huntington recognised as a trailblazer in the past few years. Apart from hearing his fascinating story delivered in a manic Doc Brown way, you’ll get to taste his beers, which were served at Noma’s pop-up in Sydney, and tread the line between wine and ale (yes, it exists). Past hits include Salty Sea Stout, brewed with oysters for a massive umami kick, and Seven Year Itch, a beer aged in oak for that long.
From 2pm to 4pm, Sat May 14, at Fox in the Corn. $54.
Viking Beer VS Pig
Twelve Scandinavian beers matched with 12 cuts of charcuterie. A DJ set by Architecture in Helsinki. What’s not to like? Scandinavia is home to famous breweries such as Mikkeller, but the beers aren’t always easy to get here. Likewise, it’s not every day Architecture DJs your party. This is a chance to experience something that’s basically impossible outside of Good Beer Week.
6pm to 8pm and 8.30pm to late, Thursday May 19, 2016 at Atticus Finch. $100.
Feral Beer Cocktail Degustation
By now you’ve probably tasted a cocktail with beer in it. This event is a bit different – it unites one of the most well-regarded breweries in Australia (WA’s Feral Brewing) with one of the best cocktail bars (Eau De Vie). The two teams are on opposite sides of the country, so it’s rare for them to come together like this.
They’ll present five courses of food matched with beer cocktails. Expensive? Very. Worth it? Totally.
From 7pm to 10pm, Wed May 18 at Eau De Vie. $175.
Grain and Grape System Wars; The Wheel of Beer Single Vessel Showdown
Okay, so this one’s geared towards beer geeks. But if you have anything more than a passing interest in beer, it’s a great opportunity to see how it’s made, in a variety of formats.
Six professional brewers will each spin The Wheel of Beer to decide what home-brewing equipment they get to use. The options range from makeshift machines to state-of-the-art. Then they get brewing, with a brief break to spin the wheel again, which decides which hops they’re allowed to use. At the end, the beers will be tasted and judged.
It’s a game show for brewers, really. Who’ll win? Jayne Lewis from Two Birds? Or maybe Ian Morgan from Mountain Goat? Get along to find out, and you’ll enjoy beers from Two Birds plus food from its head chef, Matt Beard.
From 11am to 4pm, Sun May 15 at Two Birds Brewing. $22.
Good Beer Week will run from May 13 to 22.