Monday, 26 March 2018

First Public Appearance: Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival

Last weekend was the Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival. Wignall Brewery was making its first public appearance so I went along to help serve customers and document the event. We began by heading to the brewery and picking up the kegs to transport them to the festival. 

It was a beautiful clear morning as everyone was setting up their stalls and the organisers were laying out the tables and chairs and blowing up the balloons. After a quick coffee and a short but informative briefing - there are lots of volunteers who are willing to help - it was time to open the gates to the general public. 


There were 52 exhibitors with plenty of beer and cider to taste. The layout was along Batman Street and in the car-park of the Mercure Hotel. Stalls lined either side of the street with plenty of seating in the middle of the road. There were umbrellas and pine trees providing plenty of shade, and with suncream and water readily available, it was all set up to be a perfect beer-drinking environment.

I walked around early on to take photos of the people and their stalls before they got too busy, and I also sampled one or two beverages. Yes, I'm biased but I do love the Cole Porter from Wignall Brewery - it's deep and rich and chocolatey smooth. It did establish quite a reputation over the day and I heard many good things from customers.


We were next-door to Feral, who have long been a favourite of mine. I began the day with a Biggie Juice, which is so full tropical fruits and stone fruit and a pulpy hazy texture going on, that it totally tastes like a healthy breakfast beer. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Of course we were sharing the stand with the crew from Pact; they make great beer and they stand out not just for the quality of their brews, but also for their bold colours and striking marketing.

There was a small queue of dedicated drinkers waiting to be let in at 11am and the crowd slowly built up to lunch time, when the street and the stands got really busy.


I had a Passion of the Puss from Wayward early on in the proceedings - the passion fruit and yuzu Berliner Weisse is so fresh and tart and delicious - it's a real sorbet of an amuse bouche and the perfect palate-cleanser.


These lads from Cupitt Craft Brewers make a great smoked porter that has a good depth and a subtle charcoal flavour - very nice indeed.

I'm not usually a fan of 'session IPAs' but there is a time and place for all strengths of beer, and about 2pm at the Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival seemed about right to try a Piss-Weak Sauce (Session IPA). For once I appreciated a session IPA that has all the hop flavours without the alcohol strength. Nice.

I also got in a sneaky cider: George the Fox is smooth featuring well-balanced tastes of apple and oak. It's very easy-drinking and makes a refreshing change. 

Drinky Pete is horrified to find himself empty handed.
 As well as Pact and Wignall, Canberra were well represented by Bentspoke, Capital and Zierholz. The latter's porter has a smooth coffee/chocolate richness and that signature berry taste.


The bands added to the atmosphere by supplying a relaxed and entertaining vibe. There were also food options, including burgers, nachos and 'loaded' chips. The food was good but a little tucked away in a back corner; I would have liked it to have been more plentiful and prominent.

Our friends at Willie the Boatman pour some of the finest beers around. The Crazy Ivan has a good malty hop balance, and the Nectar of the Hops is described as 'perfect beer for our warmer months'. It was certainly a festival favourite today with the big and juicy; sweet and fruity hops (tropical fruit flavours; pineapple; mango; lychees) and low bitterness for a smashable session.

Crazy Ivan
Pact Beer Co and Wignall Brewery collaborated on a blend of the Mt Tennet Pale Ale and the Stable Genius IPA. It's quite soft and sessionable with a good hop level coming through while the bitterness has been tamed. An on-line competition resulted in it being called Mount Pale McStable Face, and if you're not impressed with the name, here's the person to blame. 


As the day wore on the crowds kept coming, so we kept serving them beer. Fortunately, other people did too.

The boys from Akasha
Club Brewing are an interesting outfit, describing themselves as a beer subscription service with a difference. They focus on small batch releases designed and brewed in collaboration with some of the best breweries in the world exclusively for their members. I tried their stout (brewed in collaboration with Baird Beer) and their hoppy black ale (brewed in collaboration with Beer Here), both of which were jolly decent. 

It was a big day and at the end of it we were tired but happy, as they used to say in the Famous Five. In terms of getting out and about, talking to and meeting customers and chatting with other brewers about their beers and the general market, it must be considered a great success. Roll on the next one!


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