When Marty Keetels put up a photo on Facebook with his hand written sign, I barely gave it a second glance. Expecting another “If I get a million likes, my wife will let me buy a Maserati” or “Can I get a million likes for some cause that won’t benefit from said likes in any way shape or form?”, I dismissed it and continued my mindless scrolling of statuses. This particular picture continued to haunt my feed, however, and it seemed to be pre-dominantly beer people that were reposting it. Curiosity got the better of my stubbornness and I had a gander.
It seemed this Marty character had quit a career (and I’d imagine a lucrative one at that) to start up a beer festival in Brisbane. My first thoughts were of how my wife would react if I did something similar. “Are you nuts?” rang over and over in my head and I guess I must have projected that onto this image nestled between John’s birthday wishes and an ad for ‘Candy Crush Saga’. Surely you’d be happy to fund from the background and not give up that security?
My first physical contact with the Beer inCider Experience was with the media pack that arrived on my door step. I had seen Marty at various beer related events since I first viewed that original post, but we always seemed to dance around the room from each other and never had a chance at conversation. Maybe he was just avoiding me; that’s probably it. That being said, I was surprised to receive the package, since we had never really conversed and I hardly consider myself to be “media”. Inside was a Stone & Wood lager, some delicious beef jerky, a pass to the Beer InCider media launch party, and two free tickets to the event, among some other swag. Being as I was planning on going to the event anyway, this was a huge bonus.
The Sunday prior to the event was the launch party. I made my way down to Albion raceway along with a new contributor to this humble blog, Rohan, and got there just a little after the 9am kick off. We were greeted with big smiles and sunblock from Red Stockholm’s Jess and told to make ourselves comfortable. We grabbed a blanket and settled onto the grounds the event would be held on not a week’s wait away. A large bucket containing ice and ice cold beers and ciders was parked squarely in the middle of the field, but I resisted the urge to partake in a breakfast beer. Around other legit media types, I try to be a bit more reserved, so I decided to take in the spread of delicious pastries, fruits, and sandwiches and grab a coffee from the Wandering Man Espresso.
I had just sunk my last piece of kiwi fruit and my hand meandered into the beer bucket. I’m fairly certain it was involuntary. Rohan and I decided to attempt a few ciders, as that’s a taste I haven’t fully acquired yet, and what was there was nice, but still a bit too sweet for my liking. We tucked into some classics soon after like Feral’s Hop Hog. There wasn’t a huge turnout for the launch due to Armakeggon going on the same day, but I think that added to the charm. I managed to get slaughtered quite handily on the ping pong table and got a tidy-up of the ol bead and hair from the on-site barber, all while being serenaded by some great live music. I remember thinking that if the event was similar to this, then it would be a great event.
The event itself was similar in every way aside from numbers. The opening Saturday, I went down with a uni mate. Once we got in through the gates, it was apparently that a LOT of time, work and planning had gone in. Food, beer, and merchandise tents were set up in what can be best described as a fair (think Ekka, but with more booze). We had a bit of a wander around and had a look at everything that was on offer. I won’t go into detail on all the beers I had (perhaps for another post), but suffice to say, there was something for everyone.
This is where I think this festival hit the nail on the head. A typical beer event will bring in the usual suspects; beer nerds, beer geeks, beer snobs, and industry folk hold the vast majority of the numbers. Beer inCider, however, had a much different crowd. Sure, the regulars were there soaking up the sun and suds, but as I looked out at the crowd around the main stage, I could see a lot of people I can almost guarantee had never set foot inside a craft beer bar or had even heard of the name “Little Creatures”. Some of these folks were sipping wines, but most had a paddle in their hands and were sampling Australia’s top beers. If only of few of those people decide to delve a bit further into the flavour of beer, we’re in for a nice influx of new punters.
The entertainment, food, beer, and atmosphere were all on the up and up and all senses got a good work out on the day, making this a true experience. My little group of people, which later including Nick from Chasing Ale and his new female companion, decided to head out around 6ish and call it a day after hours and hours baking in the Queensland sun.
Despite having a fantastic time on Saturday, I was uncertain if I would be going to the shorter Sunday session. I was a little worn down from the previous day’s festivities, but a last minute tweet from Darren of 250beers made my mind up for me. Darren was hosting a session on the “art of beer blogging” for the Eat, Drink, Blog 2014 conference that was being held at the Beer inCider. The tweet was basically asking if I wanted to come down and give him a hand, and I agreed to, even though I was fairly certain there was nothing of value I could add. When I got down there, Darren made his way through his notes, and I helped out where I could (after letting him fend for himself for quite a while; sorry Daz), but the discussion became much easier once the sample beers started flowing.
I’m glad I looked at the Eat Drink Blog 2014 Facebook page after the conference. These bloggers are much more serious then myself, and the conferences they’d been attending were held by some serious names talking about serious topics. If I had seen that ahead of time, I probably would have been even more intimidated and been packing it, despite my enjoyment of public speaking. I’m sure I looked like an absolute rookie. At least Darren held things up well on his own.
After the conference, I wandered for a bit, chatting with many folks I hadn’t seen the day before, and sampling a few Riverside Brewing beers that I hadn’t had previously but were looking forward to having based on positive previous experience. During my stroll, I met up with two of the bloggers that attended the conference: Kirsten from Brisbane-based Miss Foodie and Jamie from Sydney’s Gourmet Male. Feeling I’d play an ambassador for beer to these culinary writers, I took them around some of the various stalls, offering suggestions of different beers to sample and really trying to further the message of beers diversity that Darren touched on in the conference. Hopefully, I’ve nudged them a bit more into looking at beer as the perfect complement to food and maybe giving our great scene a bit more attention to a different market.
The final word (of a very long, and rambling post… apologies): The Beer inCider Experience was a huge success. It catered to a large variety of tastes and had a bit of something for everyone. To top it all off, it was a lot of fun. Well done, Marty and crew. It was a fabulous weekend and I look forward to next year’s showing! Myself, along with the rest of Brisbane, thank you for taking the risk and rolling the dice.
Thanks to Luke Shield for taking photos at the conference while I really just sat there and did nothing.