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Australia is blessed with many festivals dedicated to craft beer these days. But few, if any, do things as well as Beervana, the annual two-day festival in Wellington, as The Crafty Pint discovered when we attended last year. Little wonder that more and more Australians are making the pilgrimage over there each year.
Now housed in the concourse of the city’s Westpac Stadium, it doesn’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary: there are various stalls and bars pouring beers samples from dozens of Kiwi brewers, a few Aussies and even fewer from further afield; there’s a home brew comp; there are seminars; there is food. But it does what it does excellently. Sure, the strong Kiwi beer scene means there’s a wealth of good stuff to choose from, but the way they’re presented, some of the festival’s quirks, and the quality of the food that supports them all adds up to something that feels like much more than thousands of people wandering through an otherwise sterile, curved concrete stadium.
Next month’s festival (on August 9 and 10) is the second at Westpac, as previously it took place at the Old Town Hall in Wellington, but the 12th since the festival’s forerunner was launched by the country’s now defunct Beer, Wine and Spirit Council in 2001. Then it was a showcase for a handful of breweries and dominated by the big boys of DB and Lion; today it offers a dazzling array of incredible beers from the likes of Epic, 8 Wired, Tuatara, Emerson’s, the Yeastie Boys and many more that have yet to send their beers to Australia.
“We moved to the stadium so we could keep expanding,” says festival director David Cryer. “It also allows us to bring our own [choice of] food in, we can have live brewing on the concourse and, because it’s all concrete, we can’t burn it down.”
Last year, the festival attracted around 8,000 over its two days; this year they’re aiming for 10,000. Among that number will be a growing band of Australians who’ve heard the war stories of those who’ve been in previous years and experienced the marvels of both Beervana and the bars and restaurants of Wellington, where it’s said up to 50 per cent of all draught beer served is craft beer. With large numbers of Kiwi brewers and beer lovers making the annual trip to Melbourne for Good Beer Week and GABS, there’s quite a bond growing not only between the two countries’ brewers but their drinkers too.
When The Crafty Pint visited last year, one of the highlights was the food, most memorably the freshly shucked oysters and the black pudding, chorizo and scallop skewers placed dangerously close to Tuatara’s Mayday tap. It’s an element of the festival that is curated by top Wellington chef Martin Bosley.
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