How the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular grew up fast

2013 may just mark the year that Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular aka GABS put itself on the map as a major event for Melbourne and for the craft beer world.

It’s been a rapid rise from its humble origins two years ago at the Local Taphouse in St Kilda. In fact, the 2013 GABS, barely resembled the inaugural event.

Inside the Exhibition building, a cool venue for a beer festival

Back in 2011, the Local was decked out in kitschy Australiana decoration, there was a staff member in a Koala suit and entry was by a gold coin donation. The just under 20 beers brewed for the day all came from Australian microbreweries.

Fast forward two years and the event was held at the Royal Exhibition Building and had more than 90 new beers brewed just for the event by local and international brewers.

The rapid growth is a testament to the growth of craft beer and the abilities of the Local Taphouse crew to take craft beer to the masses.

2012 GABS was of course similarly held at the Royal Exhibition and was well frequented but the event had some growing pains. The lines were diabolical, the event was too narrow in focus and the event received mixed feedback despite some top quality beers.

This year however the event matured into an event that could be enjoyed by all. Wait times remained at reasonable levels even during the busiest sessions. The food stands worked better inside the venue. There was music and beer classes and stalls for brewers and, most importantly, there were 90 beers on tap that were creative and good quality.

While the 2013 GABS may appear nothing like the 2011 version on the surface, one aspect that has crucially remained the same is the spirit of innovation and creativity for producing new beers.

Back in 2011, Feral’s Black IPA Karma Citra was a standout, along with Holgate’s Empress. True South’s Chocolate Coconut Porter and Mountain Goat’s Cucumber Salad represented some of the more bizarre but still tasty offerings.

Two years later, Feral’s Karma Citra had been ageing in a barrel and once again is the standout, but there were also whiskey barrel aged black IPAs, ‘beeted’ blonde ales and balsamic porters to excite and delight (here’s my review of the beers at GABS this year).

As long as the creative spirit remains, the increasing professionalism and expansion of GABS can only be a good thing for craft beer and the event should continue to serve as a beacon of the industry’s growth.

Royal Exhibition Building aka venue for GABS


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