With Australian craft beer all the rage, more and more festivals dedicated to the deliciously hopped drops have been popping up over the past decade or so all around the country. Whether they’re one-day affairs, weekend long drinking sessions or a series of events that blanket an entire city for over a week, we’ve definitely mastered the art of celebrating one of our favourite pastimes: beer, beer and more beer.
This article is part of our Brews & Bottles Series.
Australian craft breweries vary from tiny garage operations to huge aircraft hangar-sized brewing barns owned by multinational companies, so the beer festival is a great equaliser; the best Australian beer festivals are those that bring an eclectic selection of brewers together under the same roof. The beer festival in itself is a great opportunity for lager lovers and ale aficionados to sample a wide range without travelling too far, though many of these festivals have a dedicated posse of revellers who make the trip just to sample the hops.
Here’s a selection of the best Australian craft beer festivals to get your frothy fix.
The biggest and the best – The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular is the benchmark by which other beer festivals are set. Featuring over 150 exhibitors from Australia, New Zealand and beyond, the event takes place in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland, with the highlight being the near 200 specialty beers brewed specifically for the show. Live performances, music, roaming circus folk and a brass band keep the crowds entertained and the food offerings are exactly what you need to soak up the sauce when you’ve got a belly full of ale.
Great Australian Beer Festival
Located at Geelong Racecourse, about an hour out of Melbourne, the Great Australian Beer Festival takes place in February each year. With over 200 beers and ciders on the taps, it’s a great day out in the sun, with live talks and brewing seminars also featuring in the mix to keep things interesting. There’s plenty of entertainment on offer, and you can even enter the keg-rolling competition which utilises the racetrack on hand.
Rather than stick a whole bunch of beer boffins under the one roof for a few hours, BrewsVegas is spread across just about every beer-pouring venue in Brisbane for 10 days during March. Each venue features specialty brews, beer-related events, food and beer matching dinners and activities (think putt-putt golf, scavenger hunts etc, etc), all in the name of yummy yummy craft beer. BrewsVegas also houses Pint of Origin, a festival within a festival if you will, which sees each state’s best breweries represented by an ambassador venue.
Ballarat Beer Festival
Located at the city oval, Ballarat Beer Festival is a great excuse to get away from the big smoke and drink tasty craft beer in the sun. There are over 150 beers and ciders to try, food trucks feeding the masses, kids activities and live music all day long and a large selection of regional wines too, in case beer isn’t your thing. The event is held on a Saturday in January, preceded by a degustation with matched beers on the night before.
Having celebrated its inaugural event this year, Hobart Beerfest is the latest feather in the Beerfest empire’s cap, and looks set to stay. Taking over the beautiful Hobart waterfront for a weekend in January, the festival features over 200 brews from a range of exhibitors, with an obvious heavy focus on Tassie beer and cider from The Tasmanian Beer Trail team, though don’t be surprised to see how many mainland and international breweries make the trek.
The Westernmost offering in the Beerfest franchise, this one is huge, spanning three whole days and offering up over 350 different beers, ciders and spirits from the entire state. With a big bill of entertainment too, including live music, comedy, burlesque and masterclasses for the home brewers, this festival is worthy of more than one visit while it’s on, if you’ve got any hope of trying everything on your to-do list.
Australian Hotel Beer Festival
Everyone’s favourite small festival, each year the iconic Australian Heritage Hotel takes over the street and plays host to around 30 different craft breweries, all with their unique offerings to serve to the huge crowd. The number of people who attend give this October event a great ambience, and the combination of quality drinks, great food and the setting of the historic pub all make this one of the more memorable festivals.
Free The Hops
Taking place over 9 days, Free The Hops is the Gold Coast’s multi-venue celebration of all things malt, water, hops and yeast. Given the amount of events, dinners and seminars on offer, it’s a great excuse to make an October trip to the stunning beach and enjoy some cracking beers in the process.
Australian National Homebrewing Conference
More informative than any other, this is one for the hardcore hop-heads. Over three days at the Adelaide Hilton, judges crown the Australian Amateur Brewing Champion, host discussion panels and completely nerd out on all things beer. It’s an education in a glass, with a strong presence from senior industry professionals who are keen to share their knowledge and stories, and further enrich the now-thriving craft beer scene in Australia.
This article is part of our Brews & Bottles Series.