The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular aka GABS kicked off with a bang in 2017 in its first weekend in Melbourne. Beer lovers from all over congregated at the historic Royal Exhibition building for another year of unique beer tastes and festivities.
I was lucky enough to attend the event, courtesy of GABS, and pulled off the doubleheader on Friday for back-to-back sessions. For me, the event lived up to its name with a great lineup of beers, a marketplace packed with stands of good beers and beer people, and lively entertainment from Little Creatures Live acts.
There were some definite themes that emerged among the beers this year, with a lot of New England IPAs, the hazy juicy style sweeping the US, a range of spiced beers including a few Curry-inspired beers, and plenty of dessert-style beers, presumably trying to recapture the winning formula of many past GABS winners.
GABS legends and defending champs Bacchus didn’t make it to this year’s event, so who will take their crown as the People’s Choice winner? We’ll have to wait a little while to find out but in the meantime we can speculate with the aid of some Untappd data, which gives an indicator of what beers were most highly rated by punters in Melbourne. I checked the data following the event and these were the top 10 highest rated.
Top 10 GABS beers according to Untappd ratings as at 30 May 2017
1. Stockade – Mountie Maple Imperial Stout – The people of Untappd found this 12%+ beast of a beer a standout and I totally agree. Someone compared this beer to McDonald’s hotcakes and I think they’re right, but even more surprisingly, it actually works too.
2. Akasha – Lupulin Fog Double IPA – They are one of the best in the biz at doing hoppy beers, so no surprise to seem them come out on top in the battle of the juicy IPAs.
3. Pirate Life – Vanilla Thickshake IPA – Pirate Life is giving winning the People’s Choice award a good, er, shake with this beer. A dessert beer and an IPA that works from a beloved brewer, this may be a prohibitive favourite for the People’s Choice award now.
4. Little Rivers – Little Licka – perhaps the surprise of the event this little known Tassie brewer won a place with a nostalgic Red Rope Licorice style beer that hit the mark.
5. Sierra Nevada – Bombastic Montastic Belgian Brown – One of the very few international brewers at GABS, they earned their keep with this beer, a really nice complex sipper at just over 10%.
6. Feral – Dark Matter – This one stood out by being not as ‘out there’ as other beers but just being a really nice ‘normal’ chocolate porter. Hopefully we see more of it.
7. Modus Operandi – Cascadian Howl – A Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale, is a style that is sometimes maligned and somewhat restrained for GABS, but in the reliable hands of hop-loving MO, it seems to have paid off with the Sydney punters in particular.
8. Hop Nation – Jedi Juice – Another new entry to the top 10 after the Sydney GABS. Another juicy IPA from another hop-loving brewer. Departing the top 10 following Melbourne GABS are Hawkers/Wheaty’s Baklava Brown and 2 Brothers’ The Smoking Jacke.
9. (tied) Deeds – Juice Train New England IPA – one of the success stories from the many juicy IPAs on offer, from a somewhat unexpected source.
Moon Dog – The Jimmy Laureys – A big bold 22% abv Belgian Strong Ale, personally I wasn’t game to try it, but it clearly won some fans.
And for the record, here are some of my other top picks for beers I enjoyed at GABS.
10 other GABS beers I enjoyed
- Wayward – Funky Hoppy People – a hoppy and sour beer, this was something I felt I could easily drink more of.
- Chur – Chocolate Fish Milk Stout – This is a classic GABS dessert-style beer with a strong candy-ish raspberry character that indeed tastes like pink marshmallows.
- Shambles – ‘Cool Runnings’ Whole Coffee Stout – creamy with plenty of coffee and a subtle earthy, berry flavour, this one was enjoyable.
- Willie the Boatman – Marvin Berry’s Choc-Milk Stout – Another sweet stout with cacao, strawberry and raspberry that is well put together with a dry-ish finish.
- 3 Ravens – Mango Lassi IPA – surprisingly well balanced, a creamy sour and mango beer that goes down alright.
- Wolf of the Willows – ‘Raisin Kilts’ Rum n Raisin Scotch Ale – another one that actually drinks pretty easy as it isn’t overly sweet or rummy.
- Yeastie Boys – Royal Tanninbomb – An amped up version of their classic GABS winner, Gunnamatta, the IPA with Earl Grey flowers. The Earl Grey can be a bit overbearing for some, but for me, I liked it.
- Emporium – No Whey? Yes Whey! – You go to GABS to drink something different, and this white stout with whey was certainly that.
- Shenanigans – Flower Power – this lighter refreshing sour wheat beer with some subtle floral aromas was a good change-up beer.
- Stone & Wood – Salty Sour East – A particularly salty and funky gose, so if you like that kind of thing, which I do, then it’s good.