As Spring has well and truly come to Australia, the start of the beer festival season is upon us! With this start is Port Macquarie’s second annual beer and cider festival. We took the drive up from Sydney to see what the big deal was, and boy was it worth the trip.

Port Macquarie is about four hours by car from Sydney, so, leaving early on Saturday, we managed to make it shortly after the festival gates opened. The drive was pretty easy, and we even managed to take our time on the way back, exploring Port Macquarie and the New South Wales Central Coast a little bit.

It seems we weren’t the only ones to make the trip either. According to organisers, the event attracted about 2000 people, 80% of which were not from Port Macquarie. That’s not to say all of these people came from Sydney, but this was a festival that brought people to the regional centre. For a town that relies heavily on tourist dollar, it’s one more great thing to bring people to this great town.

The weather and location also helped to showcase the beauty of Port Macquarie. The weather was in the low 20’s and the location was right on the water with wonderful views of boats and local bird life. This was much better than last year, which, we hear, was plagued with less than desirable weather and troubles with food traders. Thankfully this year, everything seemed to move along smoothly.

So Much Room For Activities!

Before launching into the beer, let’s talk about the Stuff Beyond Beer (TSBB). As mentioned in the press release, TSBB was done well, as the festival was designed to be not only family friendly, but also to offer punters plenty to do to simply enjoy a great day out.

Competitions such as the keg roll and keg toss managed to draw a crowds and were good for creating a good break of drinking. Beer festivals are a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important not to overdo it. So creating a spectator sport like a keg roll slows things down and helps festival goers get through the day more moderately and ultimately having more fun.

There were plenty of other games to play, mostly involving trying to throw something into something else. This, along with a giant inflatable slide and a mechanical bull kept the kids (and some adults) entertained.

This year, the Port Macquarie Beer and Cider Festival only took up a small portion of Westport Park, with plans to expand further in coming years as the festival grows. This means more room for more beer and more activities. This festival is still very much in its infancy, and there’s room to grow!

Beer Beer Beer

All up, 20 brewers came to help celebrate the festival. These brewers ranged from the local, such as the Hops and Tales Brewery; plenty of breweries from various places in New South Wales such as Wayward Brewing Co from Sydney or New England Brewing Co from Uralla; or interstate breweries such Pirate Life from South Australia.

The selection of breweries was wide enough that a few new beers were discovered. We particularly liked the beer from Hops and Tales, especially their Coffee Infused Irish Red Ale. While not a new discovery, HopDog was another stand out that we hadn’t been terribly familiar with before, so it was a good opportunity to speak with the brewer and try some beer!

This festival, though, is not one for people who need to try a million different weird and wonderful beers, or for big beer fans who insist on only drinking something new. Good or bad, a lot of drinkers will see beer brands they’re already familiar with serving beer they’ve already tried. That’s not the point of a beer festival like this. The point is to go out and enjoy yourself, get some sun, and just have a good day out. Revisiting some classic flavours is half the fun.

There Were Some Good Tunes

It was a warm and sunny day. A hat and sunscreen were definitely needed. And shade.

The festival was set out well with a a few good places for shade plus a central tent with a good mix of bands playing on the back of a flatbed truck. These bands ranged from Blues to Bluegrass and finally a cover band playing a mix of heavier Rock and Proto-Metal. This power trio had a well rehearsed set that went from hit to hit pleasing the crowd towards the end of the day.

This was a good end to a good festival, as a day of drinking in the sun made festival goers want to turn to something other than milling around drinking beer. And it gave for a solid end to the festivities, leaving everything on a high note, rather than trickling out hoping and wanting more.

Basically, the balance of beer, tunes, and other activities was just right and provided for a well rounded festival and a good day out.

Until Next Year

Will we be back next year? Of course!

It’s really nice to have gone at the infancy of such as festival. Other rural or country beer festivals, such as Ballarat Beer and Cider Festival are a whole lot of fun, but they’re getting so big! There’s no shortage of entertainment at these larger festivals, but a smaller festival reminds us all of our roots. It reminders us of the community behind the craft beer scene. It’s just a group of people who are really into craft beer and just want to spend some time and appreciate things.

The organisers took special care to make the festival family friendly, which encouraged all attendees to create the right atmosphere where everyone could have some fun and just enjoy themselves. Sure, a few people probably drank way too much, but the vibe was more about having fun than about excess.

So here’s to many more beer festivals in Port Macquarie.

Finally, a Thanks

We managed to make a few new friends at the festival who we hope to see in the future.

A group of guys from a New Castle beer club were the life of the festival in matching shirts giving awards to people for various reasons. Their shirts were a ridiculous as they were. Every festival needs a group of happy go lucky guys like this.

Jason, the owner of Hops and Tales as well as the main organiser of the festival was more than generous with his time on what was surely a busy day, so thanks to him for taking the time to have a chat and give us some information on the festival.

And finally, thanks to the organisers as a whole, who were kind enough to arrange tickets for the Brew in Review crew and arrange the chat with Jason so we could learn about the festival and the beer. Even with tickets handled, all opinions are our own, and we paid for all food and drink on the day.

Thanks again!