The beer event of beer events of Melbourne!  The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular, or GABS was on over the weekend, and it was great.  Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building is a great place for this event.  It’s a grand old building, can fit a very large amount of people, and is just generally suitable!

The event just keeps getting better and better.  It was well organised last year, but lacked the all in all festival atmosphere that they managed to achieve this year.

You could even get your haircut courtesy of Uncle Roccos (

Beyond the two container bars featuring about 150 beers in total, many brewers had their own tables.  While many of the tables were manned by event staff or sales reps, at the very least, it offered an opportunity to stop and chat about the beer with someone with a bit of information on it.  At these booths, it was acceptable to linger a little bit (but not too much), while at the container bars, it was very much in and out.

The container bars were great and fairly efficient, but unsurprisingly there were queues at times.  So the extra benefit of the brewery specific tables was it still allowed punters to taste some beer if the lines were too long.

The other great thing to see were a few games/activities scattered throughout the Royal Exhibition Centre.  Near where we were sitting was a giant Jenga set.  This turned out to be a great spectator sport, especially once people got a few drinks in them.

Of course there was a food court as well which was well stocked, fast, and with plenty of variety.  If anything though, like the bars, the food court only accepted drink tokens.  The token system is great as it keeps things fast, but this was less of a concern with food. Most punters prefer to keep their tokens in allotments of five (as that’s the size of the paddles), and unfortunately food throws off this careful balance.  But it is what it is…

And there was beer there too!

None of this took away from the main point of the festival: the tasting of craft beer!

With so many beers on offer and such long sessions (five hours), it’s easy to get carried away, so the other activities were a good idea.

That being said, there’s not a lot to be said about the beer.  The big highlight was being able to sit down, taste tons and tons of beers and bicker with friends about what’s good and what’s bad.  There was much passing back and forth of the little cups…  In a festival, this is more important than geeking out too much.  There are those who take notes of every single beer and have to find a favourite by the end: that’s fine!  There’s right ways of doing that and wrong ways of doing that.

The whole festival “thing” is inherently social, so why not make it social?  Beyond the beer, the highlight was being there with a big group of friends and just talking beer all day.

Anyway, the selection of beers was brilliant.  There were beers from all corners of the world, and nothing “standard.”  These were beers you wouldn’t drink on a normal night out, it’s a chance to try something unusual or specialty brews that would get missed otherwise.

And people traveled to get there!

GABS is the perfect way to end Good Beer Week and the event of the year for beer lovers Australia wide.  Being on Twitter or beer blogs in the lead up to Good Beer Week, one starts to see people from around Australia start to talk about the pilgrimage.  During Good Beer Week, one runs into people from around Australia who came to Melbourne because it’s Good Beer Week.  GABS puts them all in one place.

Everyone’s happy, everyone’s excited.  Everyone is just out to try some Good Beer.  And that’s the point.

So… only 364 days until the next one!