GABS Saga 2014

Well, GABS 2014 (as well as Good Beer Week, obviously…) has been and gone and tell you what, it was a doozy….

I had the opportunity to get along to the friday session at the Exhibition Building in Carlton and revel in the celebration of all things that is going on in the world of craft beer. Being a GABS virgin, i had high hopes and i was not disappointed.

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The first thing that really blew me away was actually walking into the exhibition building… The interior is astonishing and walking amongst the walls, you could really feel the history and i was in awe….. Until i saw Shane Warne. I was gobsmacked, who in their right mind thought that Warnie was in any way a good advocate for craft beer? I learnt later that he had brewed a beer with MOA from New Zealand, needless to say, i steered clear of his stand. I have nothing personal against MOA, i just think they could of found a better representative, not a guy who is basically famous for womanizing, eating baked beans and drinking VB. From the reaction of my fellow craft beer nerds, it was fairly obvious many shared my sentiment. I was quite amused but the fact that no one whatsoever was paying attention to Warne but milling about the stands, reading their programs and labeling up their tasting paddles, getting ready for the bell to ring. Not even the MC sounded all that enthused about the spin king….

With the bell rung, it was time to dive into some serious beer.

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It wasn’t long before i got chatting with some seasoned GABS’ers and the general consensus was that this year was a very well rounded year. You could really tell that this was a year of experimenting for brewers big and small, trying to find the next big trend. From what i saw, a lot of brewers were playing around with Farm house styles, barrel aging and saisons. Lots of interesting yeast strains getting around…. But wait, there’s still more!

I tried my best to work through the beers numerically but soon learned that was futile as there were over 100 beers so i resorted to choosing my battles. Some serious stands out for me were:

– 2 Brothers Brewery: Creme Caramel. (VIC/ 13% ABV)

This dessert style ice beer was the first thing i had and probably one of my favourites of the day. The nose smelt like a blow torch had just been over sugar on a creme brulee, caramel, toffee and absolute deliciousness…. The palate was custard, toffee and caramel with an amazing warmness from the alcohol and smooth all the way down. A delicious dessert in beer form.

– 4 Pines: ‘Gin and Juice’ Snoop Dog Tribute ale (NSW/ 5.5% ABV)

Although this isn’t really my style of beer, i really appreciated the craft that went into it and really got every note from this flavour- infused Golden Ale . Not to mention it was VERY sessionable…. Infused with juniper berries, orange zest, orange juice, bitters and cucumber this ale is extremely refreshing. The orange and bitters really came out in the aromatics and the cucumber provided a light, super fresh body.

– Coedo: Coedonado (JAPAN/ 9.5% ABV)

This barrel aged strong ale was an absolute knock out. A collab with Coronado (USA), this bad boy is aged in whiskey barrels from Saitama’s whiskey distillery. Drinking this was like smoking a very fine cigar and neat whiskey, it was super smooth. Vanilla, tobacco and peaty notes with a depth of flavour that could only be provided by oak.

– Doctor’s Orders Brewing: Electrolyte Forte (NSW/ 7.5%)

Before GABS, i had no experience with Doctor’s Orders or Imperial Gose but ill tell you now, ill be keeping an eye out for both now. This beer is packed with blueberries, strawberries and extremely well balanced with a sour, puckering finish. I was not getting any of the alcohol in this one, just super fresh and easy. Just really well made.

– Brewcult: Pepper Steak Porter (VIC/ 6%)

If your idea of an awesome meal is a juicy, rare steak and craft beer this is the beer for you. Brewed with cherry wood smoked malt and black peppercorns, this meal in itself is all about peppercorns on the nose and palate with a delicious umami flavour and a long smokey cacao finish. I was imagining eating a steak as i was drinking it, this beer cries out for red meat…

– Wayward Brewing Co: Chockywocky Dopplebocky (NSW/ 8.5%)

Very easily my favourite of the day, this sour cherry smoked cacao Dopplebock was as playful and interesting as the name suggests. Rich, dark malt carried with incredibly balanced sour and tart cherries all through out the nose and palate. Aged in bourbon barrels, it finishes off with vanilla, cacao and a long smokey finish.

With the amount to do, i am not surprised that it runs for the whole weekend. Next year i will definitely  be trying to go to at least 2 sessions, having got through about 30 different beers but still missing a bunch i wanted to try, i don’t want to miss out again.

The next year in craft beer will prove to be very interesting indeed if GABS is any indication of what’s to come.

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