Cheers for beers: Where there's hops there's life

The Australian craft brewing scene has come into its own, evidenced by a burgeoning industry festival.

Imagine the noise of several thousand people queuing, sampling and yapping about beer and you're getting close to the essence of GABS.

For the uninitiated, GABS stands for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular - by far the largest and most ambitious craft beer event held in this country.

With about 180 exotic 'Festival Beers & Ciders' to sample, your taste buds will be in overdrive during the one-day extravaganza at Sydney Olympic Park.

Sample porters, ales, stouts', fruity Belgian beers and array of ciders.

The celebration of craft beer and the brewer's art attracts a young crowd (late 20s, early 30s) who are voluble and surprisingly well-behaved - the type of people who listen to indie music and work in marketing or IT, plus a sprinkling of older, crusty "hopheads".

Beer tasting and beer chat are the two essential bookends of GABS.

Apart from being a wonderful shindig for lovers of craft beer, GABS also encourages leading brewers (mostly from Australia and New Zealand) to showcase their talents by creating one-off festival beers which push the boundaries by using the most exotic ingredients they can find.

Each brewer is asked to produce a crazy, never before seen, one of a kind 'festival beer'.

Brewed in the shire: Shark Island Brewing Company

Brewed in the shire: Shark Island Brewing Company

This year Shark Island Brewing Co based at Kirrawee has produced THE TIN MAN (a smoked india plae vienna kolsch).

In the past, Shark Island has turned up to GABS with chokos, lilli pilli, and mulberry in its beers. This time around they use Kakadu plums, native wood smoked malt and Australian hops.

The flavour is refreshing, yet complex.

While Australian and New Zealand brewers remain the focus of attention, the festival is now attracting exhibitors and brewers from Britain, the US, Japan, Norway and Italy.

For those not so keen on beer, 13 unique ciders will make their debut at the festival this year.

One combines Batlow cider with Ribena; another takes its lead from a mojito. One uses second-grade fruit; another is inspired by jam on toast; while others use honey and apricot crumble.

Festival beers and ciders are served from three distinctive Husky Container Bars.

Lined with 60 taps on each side, the bars are a sight to see.

There is a limited allocation of each festival beer and cider for each session so you'll have to get in quick because some session allocations may run out. But don't despait the beer or cider will be back for the next session.

  • GABS Sydney is staged in Exhibition Halls 3 & 4 at Sydney Showground, Olympic Park. There are two 5-hour sessions on June 1.