GABS (The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular) was a night of tasty extravagance that hit me with excitement even before entering the hallowed halls of Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building. Stepping out of my Uber on the chilly Autumn eve, I could hear a small band, laughter and cheering from hundreds of metres away.
Outside of the entrance was a four-piece travelling band dressed in French mime outfits and jeering at passers-by. This carnival vibe set the scene for the awaiting atmosphere within. As I entered, I was blown away by the beauty of the lights, colours and vibrant decorations of GABS (massive props to the GABS Event Director Craig Williams and his crew).
A festival brochure provided at the entrance explained how there were over 170 brewers and cidermakers had developed unique, limited release beverages only available at GABS. It was then that I became mildly panicked by the fact that there was no possible way I would be able to taste all of the delicious beers that were on offer. I calmly reminded myself that I could only do my best – and proceeded to do just that throughout the evening.
My first port of call was the ‘Dan Murphy’s Discovery Deck’ stall, where beers of all kinds had been paired with the most interesting flavours. From pairing porter with Lindt chocolate, lagers with popcorn and sour beers with sour straps. Featuring beers from some of my favourite craft brewers including Moon Dog, Feral Brewing Co., Hop Nation, Bridge Road and Two Birds.
I took part in a competition of beer pong where you needed to sink at least 6 ping pong balls to win a prize. I must admit, I do have some concerns about how the regulations of this competition were put together, as I did not win any prizes and I am a well-practiced athlete in this particular sport.
By this time, the roar of the cheerful festival goers was echoing off the high, hand-painted ceilings. The giant Ferris wheel in the centre of the building took joyful passengers for unrivalled views of the whole event, while also donating every dollar made from tickets towards a charity for MND (Motor Neuron Disease).
As the ever-inclusive person I am, I made sure to visit Larrikin Gin distillers to sample their goods. Their deliciously smooth ‘Australia’ gin would be well worth the trip out to Ballarat where they are located (or perhaps just simply order it online from Dan Murphy’s if you are strapped for time.)
A good selection of street food was available and we decided on burgers and chips, because really – what else goes better with beer in this world?
With full tummies and cups brimming with beer we then entered the Holey Moley ‘fun zone’ to compete fiercely in putt putt and mini basketball challenges. At which point I was at just the right point of happy-tipsy to not mind that I am actually good at neither.
One last shout out is to the wonderful GABS Beer app that was developed to allow you to look at the list of events, plan your tasting paddles and then link your beer scoring through to Untappd. Without which, my memory of the spectacular beers I sampled would have been far more hazy.