GABS is coming to Brisbane! Breaking down my top 20 festival beers

Some count how many sleeps until Christmas, I count how many sleeps until GABS, and I’m excited to say that there’s only 12 sleeps left now until Australia’s biggest beer festival hits Brisbane for the very first time.

Every year GABS gets a little bigger and this year they’re expecting close to 50,000 attendees in total across Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Brisbane, with 6-7k marked for Brisbane’s debut across two sessions at the Convention & Exhibition Centre in South Bank.

It was the right time for GABS to make the move north according to GABS co-founder Steve Jeffares,

There is so much great beer coming out of Queensland right now, with breweries like Balter, Green Beacon, Hemingway’s, Newstead, Aether and many more making the sunshine state one of the hottest destinations in the country for beer lovers.

Festival goers can expect the usual GABS entertainment with the lively music stylings of the Ale Capones, beer hall games, interactive brewer stands, discussion panels, food, and most importantly, beer, and lots of it.

Festival beers

170+ festival beers are being brewed for the first time exclusively for the event as brewers across Australia experiment to create some good, some weird, and some outright genius beers.

107 festival beers and ciders will debut at the Brisbane event and I’ve undertaken the tricky task of picking out my top 20 beers and broken these down by themes.

Collaboration beers

There’s a big focus on collaboration from the brewers this year. There are numerous collaborations with businesses in other industries including gin and rum distillers, wine producers, coffee roasters, and even skateboard makers.

Wayward Brewing Coffee and Donuts

Coffee and donuts is a classic combo and now Wayward are combining this into a milk stout. With donuts from their Camperdown brewery neighbours Grumpy Donuts and coffee beans from Toby’s Estate, this is a must try for me.

Slipstream Wine Barrel Aged Brut Kettle Sour

There’s a lot going on with this beer. It’s a collab with Witches Falls Winery, a kettle sour, a brut and it’s barrel aged. I recently had the chance to attend a Brewsvegas event featuring four barrel aged beers from Slipstream and was really impressed by the the beers but also the knowledge and experience of head brewer Ian Watson, so I’m confident he can bring it all together.

Sour beers

Green Beacon Sour Peach Swirl

Green Beacon are doing great things with sour beers like Siren Song and 7 Bells, and their recently launched Fathom barrel-aged program so I expect this to be a tasty number too. This beer includes peaches, lactose, and mosaic hops – let’s do it.

Red Duck The Blood of Ra

I really enjoyed trying the original Ra beers styled as Egyptian Bread Beers back in the day, as they were quite unique and educational. This beer also uses ancient grains and is sour, but also adds in blood oranges and red-dye, in an apparent tribute to Amon Ra who brewed a red-dyed beer that saved humanity. Like a history lesson in a glass.

Brut IPAs

The Brut IPA style continues to get a mixed reception from drinkers but brewers continue to experiment with the dry champagne-like style. It should provide a refreshing contrast with the sweeter beers at the event.

Frenchies (and Bridge Road) Rose Brut IPA

For my pick of the Bruts, I’m going for this collab between two well-regarded brewers, which includes fresh raspberries, Aussie hops and a dry finish.

Welder’s Dog Brut Noir

This beer sounds intense and deeply different. The beer is served still and it’s been given the Brut treatment. There’s also an interesting melange of flavours on display from raspberry, cherry, sour, Hallertau Blanc hops, and french oak. I don’t know if it will work but if it does it could be glorious.

New England IPAs

Hazy, juicy, and oh so trendy, there’s going to be plenty of NEIPAs on offer at GABS. Balter and Feral are both releasing amped up versions of their very popular NEIPAs, Hazy and Biggie Juice, with Dazy and Imperial Biggie Juice respectively. These are sure to be some of the favourites of the event, but I’m banking that they’ll be available after the event too, so I’m going with some more experimental choices.

Deeds Brewing Naked Brunch

10 Toes NEIPA’d in the Bud

I’ve been really impressed with 10 Toes. A small outfit on the Sunshine Coast that has one of the nicest standard pale ales going around. This beer will be an amped up hoppy NEIPA with hemp seeds for a unique twist.

Hop Nation The Husk

Hop maestros Hop Nation have a track record of producing great riffs on the NEIPA style, like the recent Forager with blueberries, and I’m putting my trust in them to do it again. This time they are set to use cascara tea in the mix, while also fermenting the beer with rooftop honey.

Sweet treat beers

Every year, beers replicating sweet treats are a big hit at GABS. Beers inspired by tim tams, coconut roughs and violet crumbles are some of the sweet treats on the menu this year.

Big Shed Tim Tam Slam

Last year’s winners of the GABS People’s Choice award are back for more and this time they have a coffee and tim tam combo that sounds perfect. I’d back Big Shed to recreate the flavours, as they did with their Golden Gaytime-like beer a few years back.

Sailors Grave Pineapple Lump

Dainton Violet Rumble

Dainton have been a prolific producer of good and different beers over the past year or so, including the recent Creme Caramel, which gives me confidence they can produce another sweet treat that hits the spot.

Nostalgic beers

Some of the beers this year are set to bring back childhood memories of walking to the local milk bar with pocket money and picking up a little something, or dropping in to nan’s for a sweet biscuit.

Your Mates Your Nan’s Jam Drop!

One of the surprise packets of the Hottest 100, the Sunshine Coast brewer are better known for their easy drinking beers, but here have something a little different. This sounds like a nice mix if they nail it with strawberry, raspberry, and biscuit flavours with a touch of vanilla.

Currumbin Brewing Grape Bubblegum Sour

Currumbin are a new kid on the block in the Gold Coast and are showing they’re one to watch out for. This beer has a nostalgic factor, described as having a puckering sour inspired by grape Hubba Bubba. Count me in.

Nitro beers

4 Pines Nitro Creme Brulee

I’m a sucker for nitro beers. The creamy texture adds another dimension and I think would work particularly well with a dessert-style beer like this. I remember years back when Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout sent people into a tizzy. If 4 Pines nails it, they might cause a similar clamouring for their beer.

Fox Hat Nitro Innuendo

Described as a “lightly oaked Imperial Porter with Beenleigh vanilla spiced rum, horny goat weed, pomegranate, coconut and honey” poured with nitro. A collab with Bickford’s stable mates, Beenleigh Rum Distillers, that is certainly an ultra intriguing mix of ingredients.

Experimental beers

Mornington Peninsula Tusen Takk

Mornington Peninsula are a brewery I always look out for. This year they’ve been inspired by traditional Norwegian and Finnish brewing to produce a beer run that is through Blue Spruce leaves inside the trunk of a Blue Spruce tree, which is sure to impart some unique flavours.

Shifty Lizard Lizard’s Picnic (Tyrant Ant Sour)

Every year, there’s some beers with weird ingredients that capture the attention of news writers and I think this one will be up there this year. Ants in your beer might sound unusual but I have high hopes. Some of the world’s best restaurants feature ants in their dishes and this local ant is supposed to add a citrusy zing.

Cocktail beers

Revel Ginger Storm

Based on a dark ‘n stormy cocktail, aged with rum barrel oak, and using lime and ginger in the mix, this sounds ultra refreshing and tasty.

Stomping Ground Old Smashioned

While the Old Fashioned isn’t my favourite style of cocktail, Stomping Ground is a brewery that rarely lets me down. A mix of cherry juice from Willie Smith’s, orange and whisky, using Starward barrels for ageing.

Milkshake IPAs

Milkshake IPAs are getting some traction and a number of brewers are turning their hand to this extra juicy, hazy, sweet and creamy style for the event.

Stockade Double NEIPA Berries and Cream

Stockade, winners of the People’s Choice award in 2017, might be a shot again here. They’re using Cryo-Hops, a product that concentrates hop goodness, in a sweet hazy milkshake IPA with strawberries to boot. Sounds like a winner.

Sea Legs Planter’s Punch Milkshake IPA

The refreshing pineapple and coconut combo matched with with juicy hops and served on nitro for extra creaminess hits all the marks for a rocking milkshake IPA.

Brewery stands

While the festival beers get the attention, there’s also set to be a ton of top beers available from the brewer stands at the event. Local brewers were given first crack to book stands in the Dan Murphy’s Marketplace, so there’s a good mix of local brewers and national ones. Check out the Brisbane Event Map for full details or download the app.

For those who are new to the event, rather than just simply smashing out paddle after paddle, I highly recommend getting out and about to interact with the teams at the brewery stands and drink some of the beers on offer there to get the full experience.

The growth of the event since 2011 has been amazing and I’m excited to see the latest incarnation in Brisbane. Happy drinking!

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