Top Beers of GABS 2019 (so far) – Brisbane review and Melbourne preview

The second GABS of 2019 is set to get underway later this week in Melbourne, featuring 170+ festival beers and ciders plus hundreds more at the stands. Around a 100 festival beers were already featured at the Brisbane event and I’m going to share the highlights from that event which gives those headed to the Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland events plenty to look forward to.

Festival beers

I was happy that my festival preview was pretty on the money regarding which beers to look out for and I was able to try most of the beers that ranked highly with drinkers.

Currumbin Valley’s Grape Bubblegum Sour is an early favourite to win the People’s Choice Award this year. The beer has the qualities of past winners with a vibrant candy grape flavour that reminded me of a purple Nerds or indeed Grape Hubba Bubba. It perfectly captured the nostalgic taste of these old milk bar treats while being a refreshing flavoursome beer too.

Also up there in the race for the People’s Choice award is Wayward’s Coffee and Donuts. The donut flavours really stood out in this beer with a bit of roast coffee bitterness on the finish, which balanced out the sweetness. Those who go bold and make the beer taste like they promise are rewarded at GABS and that was the case here.

My favourite beer of the festival was probably Green Beacon’s Sour Peach Swirl. While it didn’t carry the novelty factor of the other two and was a little more challenging with plenty of acidity present, it is a beer that I’m keen to seek out again, as the juicy peach flavours were mighty refreshing.

There were a couple of other beers that stacked up nicely too. Shifty Lizard’s Tyrant Ant Sour was a pleasant easy drinker with a unique citrusy flavour. Stockade’s Berries and Cream NEIPA was hazy and hoppy with a a creamy mouthfeel and nice touch of strawberries on the finish.
On the negative side, Pioneer’s Country Fling was horrific by all accounts and clearly this beer should have been scratched the beer was scratched. I avoided this one but the biggest disappointment for me was probably the Tim Tam Slam just because Big Shed have set such high standards for themselves in past years and this one was just ok.

Beers from the stands

I didn’t just drink festival beers though as there was some great beer available at the stands too. Ballistic’s collab with San Diego brewer Abnormal an Oaked Cold Brew Coffee Stout was sensational, a really strong coffee hit which I loved and was so easy to drink for me.

Range Brewing’s Good Problem To Have was another highlight and another recent collab with a US brewer, Kings County Brewers Collective, which included mango, coconut and lactose to create a fruity, hazy luscious beer.

Pirate Life brought the goods as usual with their tasty Vanilla Malt Thickshake from a couple of GABS ago and an Acai and Passionfruit Sour that was pretty darn refreshing too.

The coolest stand for the event has to go to Newstead who had the theme of an old milk bar/corner store and presented new beers to match that theme with Whizz Phizz, a hoppy sour in the vein of its namesake, Juicy Root, a sarsaparilla-like beer, an apple malt beer, and an I can’t believe it’s not milkshake DIPA too. I love that they went all out with the theme for the stand and their beers.

Top ranked festival beers

And finally below are the the top 12 festival beers according to Untappd ratings taken from the day after the event.

  1. Blasta – Rampant Raspberry (4.19)
  2. Wayward – Coffee and Donuts (4.13)
  3. Green Beacon – Sour Peach Swirl (4.02)
  4. Dainton – Violet Rumble (4.02)
  5. Balter – Dazy (3.97)
  6. Feral – Imperial Biggie Juice (3.97)
  7. Stockade – Double NEIPA Berries & Cream (3.96)
  8. Your Mates – Your Nan’s Jam Drop (3.93)
  9. Currumbin Valley – Grape Bubblegum Sour (3.92)
  10. Moon Dog – Are You Not Satisfied?! (3.89)
  11. Black Hops – Carribbean Haze (3.87)
  12. Australian Beer Co. (Yenda) – Rosie Was A Wee Heavy Lass (3.84)

WA’s Blasta Brewing were the real surprise packet with their raspberry sour scoring really highly. Australian Beer Co. for the second year running have shown that they have some brewing skills not usually on display with their core Yenda range with a strong score for their Scotch ale.
Less surprising was the Balter and Feral Imperial NEIPAs scoring well with punters. That the amped up versions of their popular NEIPAs both had the same score is fitting. I finished the session on a cup of Dazy and it was the goods.

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Overall, GABS’s debut in Brisbane appeared to be a success with a healthy crowd leading to packed tables around the hall and full attendance at the speaking panels. The layout at the South Bank venue saw a greater focus on the brewer stands and panel sessions compared with the Melbourne event, the only downside being the spaces probably weren’t as well separated, so there wasn’t really a place to get away from the noise for those (like me) who like quieter spaces.

Melbourne preview

The Melbourne event will not only feature the great beers above but includes some other beers sure to excite and delight. For instance, NZ brewers were largely absent from the Brisbane event and are usually among the more interesting.

8 Wired are always great whatever they do, Funk Estate have a Rooibos and Mango tea sour, Chur a White Imperial Stout, and Garage Project always have something interesting to showcase and a cool stand to check out.

Other festival beers I’m intrigued by include That’s No’ How You Make Porridge which sounds mad genius, while Otherside’s Pickleback Sour is perhaps straight mad, while Mash’s Banoffee Pie IPA might just hit that sweet spot in between?

The stands will be fascinating too. There’s a good mix of locals and bigger players. Pirate Life are promising 8 new beers at their stand including a Choc Hazelnut Thickshake beer Rochè that sounds amazing. There’s also a really good chance to see some of the more interesting blenders and barrel agers in Dollar Bill and Future Mountain, and to check out new breweries like Inner North and sample hard-to-find beers from small local brewers like Three Greens.

Should be another fun day as the GABS show rolls on. For those who can make it – enjoy!

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