Williamstown Beer and Cider Festival 2014
The second annual Williamstown Beer and Cider Festival was on recently, and boy was it a good day!
The Williamstown Beer and Cider Festival (or Willy Beer Fest as it’s sometimes called) is sometimes seen as the start of the Melbourne beer festival season: it’s at the start of the summer, with some great minor food and beverage festivals through the summer, finally finishing at Melbourne Good Beer Week. Sure, it’s only in its second year, but the festival is quickly coming into its stride and a great day.
The weather for the festival couldn’t have been better: we managed to find a great table outside with just enough sun and just enough shade to keep us happy.
Upon arriving, we took a quick lay of the land. It was mostly Victorian brewers, but a few from interstate showed up. Even some samples from Bridgeport Brewers were there, but it was more of an appearance from their importer than samples of something new and different.
Starting with not the beer
Yeah, yeah, we all want to hear about the beer. The truth of the matter is, all the beer was great but there was no way to try it all. Williamstown Beer and Cider Festival is small enough that there are tons of familiar breweries and beers to choose from, but they all have something you haven’t tried before. And you can usually have a chat with a brewer if you’re lucky. But we get ahead…
As with all good beer festivals, Willy Beer Fest provided some great entertainment beyond the beverages. There was always a band playing and even some roving entertainers.
Unfortunately for the bands, they didn’t seem to draw that much attention and they were really only treated as background despite the large and prominent stage. It was all about the roving entertainers, and the highlight was most definitely the steampunk styled one man band Uptown Brown who was kind enough to take a request and serenade our table with some old school blues.
OK, now the beer
As mentioned, the Williamstown Beer and Cider Festival had some great Victorian beers and great Australian beers in general. Too many were tasted to go through and honestly, things got a bit blurry by the end of the day! But let’s go through some quick highlights.
We started with Kaiju and it was a great choice for a few reasons. First off, Kaiju Beer is great and the brewers couldn’t be more friendly and excited about their product. Secondly, we were lucky enough to be the first people to have their brand new Robohop Golden IPA; it was Robohop’s commercial release. We also managed to try the Cthulhu and the Behemoth amongst others and they were all great. It was really good to see this relatively new brewery expand their range, especially because the brewers are such nice guys and have so much passion for the craft.
A (almost) brand new brewery, it’s good to see them get on the scene and talk themselves up. Oh, and the beer was great too. Exit’s Milk Stout was great and extremely popular on the day, despite the very warm weather: that says a lot for the beer. We managed have a good chat with the brewer and the rest of the team, and they explained why they decided to launch the brewery with a saison (that wasn’t available!), instead of the standard pale ale or IPA. It was a bold move, but one that seems to be paying off for them in that it’s making them stand out – they’re not just another brewery with another pale ale trying to compete in a sea of pale ales. Other than the saison and milk stout, they also have an IPA and a Scotch ale. They’re great beers and it will be nice to see this brewery grow from festival to festival.
Tooborac Hotel & Brewery
A quiet and unassuming brewery, no one was raving about this one throughout the festival. But as the day heated up, there was talk of trying to find a saison, but there was nothing… but we stumbled up Tooborac’s summer ale, and it hit the spot. There was a bit of a yeasty funkiness about the beer that almost gave it that saison quality we were looking for, so it managed to do the job. Tooborac seems to be one of those breweries that have kind of been thrown into the whole craft beer thing simply because they’re a small brewery that puts care into their production; craft beer just happened to take off around them. But they make great, unassuming beer and they just want to share it with people, so what’s wrong with that?
Another stand out beer was the Delpont IPA by Mountain Goat. It missed the beer section because the beer’s namesake, Tom Delpont, was there talking to punters and being an all around nice guy. Tom is one of the longest serving members of Road Goat so has had the honour of naming a beer after him, and a damn fine beer at that! We’ll have to get a bottle of this beer and give it a proper tasting because we were too busy talking to enjoy it properly.
We were also fairly star struck meeting Jane from Two Birds who seemed more amazed that we considered ourselves “fans” than we were at meeting her. She was nice enough to put up with some fanboys for a few minutes and have a chat about their continued growth. The Sunset Ale is one of the best session beers in Australia at the moment, so we wish them all the best!
Finally, Scott of the Fermented Follicle was also seen walking around generally being a nice guy up for a chat. It was nice to meet him after reading his blog for so long and his beard is much better in person.