Category Archives: Observations

More-or-less — well; more, since they don’t live in another category — random reports on various interesting things that catch my eye

GABS 2012: Day Two & Three Photos, with Afterthoughts

GABS Weekend was genuinely awesome — and pretty-much exhausting. I just never caught up on the fact that my trip started with 26-odd-hours awake running on a mere two hours sleep. But these are trifling #firstworldproblems; I was having a marvellous time, giddy with beer-geek joy, doing a bit of volunteer monkey-work, meeting lovely people and sampling a surprisingly-modest few beers. I couldn’t keep up the standard I set on Day One, so will take the time now to post a few more photos and some very-preliminary afterthoughts I’ve thunk since.

— The People: Visitors

There were lots of people — ten-thousand-plus, distributed unevenly over the five sessions: a quiet and probably-valuable “soft” opening on Friday afternoon, a busier Friday night, the biggest crowd on Saturday afternoon, followed by a middling evening and a suitably-sedate Sunday — and they ranged massively from hard-core nerdy anoraks to “normal people”. The mix varied predictably (Friday night: more normal, Saturday day: more nerdy) but was never too lop-sided in either direction. They were good crowds, too; I have it on good authority that not one person was thrown out all weekend.

All those people and tasting paddles did stress the serving setup, and — ultimately — break it a few times. Queues got long, but people adapted by carrying multiple paddles and — barring minor flare-ups on Facebook and such — didn’t seem to let it ruin their mood. It’s a difficult event to design a system for, especially untested, and the organisers are wise to the issue and already talking about sensible-sounding revisions for next year.

Queue of visitors
Queue of visitors
People purchasing plural paddles
Purchasing plural paddles
Friday night cup-stackers
Friday night cup-stackers

— The People: Volunteers and Brewers

I was basically a backup-member of a few-hundred-strong volunteer army — I had a few duties at each session, but normal recruits did one or two full shifts. The economics of beer festivals is such that they’re basically always dependent on people working in exchange for a few tickets and tokens, and the fun of it, rather than regular wages. There was a lot of prep-and-re-prep to be done between sessions, on top of all those thousands of serves of beer, and swarms of coloured shirts got it done admirably.

Brewer presence is a tricky thing to figure out at beer festivals, too — it’s certainly a factor that Beervana needs to work on, and is working on — GABS-attending brewers had distinctive caps (though black hats all look alike at a distance, inevitably), but they also had a really-sweet VIP area (for which tickets were available to the public, at a premium price) with snacks and its own bar. Brewers were rare-ish on the main floor, but crowds were big and I still managed to meet a fair few — and, again, the organisers have already come up with a minor re-shuffle that should make them even easier to find, next year.

My wristbands
My wristbands
Bar 03's volunteers
Bar 03's volunteers
Tasting paddle return bin
Tasting paddle return bin
Guides and glasses set up pre-session
Guides and glasses set up pre-session
The easily-found Kjetil from Nøgne Ø
The easily-found Kjetil from Nøgne Ø
View from the VIP area
View from the VIP area

— The Food

Outside the building, through the big Southern doors, was a row of food vendors opening out of trailers and tents and whatnot. They were brilliantly varied, from pizza to curry, and reasonably-priced; basically perfect Festival Food. I didn’t have a dud snack or meal, and I had some absolute gems — particularly the gob-smackingly fantastic po’ boys from the guys in the Gumbo Kitchen truck, which was (rather brilliantly) playing things like the Treme soundtrack.

Po' Boy and fried shrimp
Po' Boy and fried shrimp
Argentine barbeque
Argentine barbeque
Paella pan
Paella pan

— First After-afterthoughts

It was a great weekend, and I’m very glad I made the trip. I’ve inherited my Dad’s engineer’s-eye for criticism and potential improvements, but basically all of them that came to mind were straight-away mentioned, unprompted, by Steve (the Festival Overboss) when I caught up with him late in Sunday’s session. He, and the rest of the organisers, are all over it. So I’m stowing most of them in my brain, satisfied that the wrinkles will be smoothed and next year will be even more awesome. I’m in.

GABS 2012: Day One Photos

So, I’m back in my dear old Melbourne taking full advantage of my well-timed unemployment to attend GABS: the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular. It’s rather a treat, and will warrant a proper write-up (or several), but I just want to use the last few moments before my sleep-deprived brain implodes to upload a few photos.

— The Location

The venue — the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens — is right in my old neighbourhood (at the end of my genuinely lovely one-time ten minute walk to work, in fact), and it’s freakin’ gorgeous. The bars were in the East and West wings, renamed as the “Malt” and “Hops” Ends; the latter seeming to have just a bit more going on, which nicely fits the current state of the market and its fashions. The center contained a stage upon which a good collection of bands performed — usually slightly too loud.

Main Hall, looking East
Main Hall, looking East
Fountain and park outside
Fountain and park outside
Main hall, ceiling
Main Hall, ceiling
The Hops End
The Hops End
The Malt End
The Malt End
Main Hall, center
Main Hall, center

— The Beer

The selection of beer on offer — nearly sixty mostly-one-off brews from New Zealand and Australia — is headcrushingly varied and enticing. It skews somewhat to the experimental and odd, but not in a stuntish or boringly overblown way. The huge bars were well prepped and keyed mainly towards serving five-sample tasting trays, with payments all handled by familiar and ubiquitous tokens that help you forget just how much you’re spending. I kept things fairly sedate — I was slightly less sleep-deprived than now, but still extraordinarily so and had odd-job volunteer work to do off and on through the night. I had a tasting tray of the five mildest beers on offer (all ≤4.5% ABV), but later rewarded myself with a proper-glass nightcap of Garage Project’s ‘Double Day of the Dead’, a worthy (and embiggened) reincarnation of my Favourite Beer of 2012. There’s plenty more I want to try, but I am going to three more sessions; there’s time.

The Big Board part 1
The Big Board part 1
The Big Board part 2
The Big Board part 2
The Big Board part 3
The Big Board part 3
Bar 01, prepping
Bar 01, prepping
Bar 04, serving
Bar 04, serving
$2 GABS 2012 Token
$2 GABS 2012 Token
Row of taps
Row of taps
Sessionable tasting paddle
Sessionable tasting paddle
Double Day of the Dead
Double Day of the Dead