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Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival celebrates 10th birthday as local brewing scene comes of age
It’s been 10 years since the first Canberra Craft Beer and Cider Festival was held, one rainy afternoon in Braddon.
Organiser Jenny Farrell remembers it well.
“We had 12 stalls, we hadn’t even filled up the car park and it poured with rain,” she said.
“But the Canberrans, they just loved it. We threw out ponchos and they still stayed and drank.”
Despite the rain, the festival got such great feedback, she knew “this has got legs, it can grow”.
And grow it did.
The 2017 festival, held today in the same carpark at the Mercure Canberra, brought together 52 exhibitors from around the country and attracted many hundreds of punters from here and out of town.
Ms Farrell said it was a testament to the strength of the local craft brewing scene and its devotees.
“Canberrans love craft beer. It [the festival] is not an Octoberfest — they don’t come here to drink steins,” she said.
“They’re genuinely interested in what the brewers have to say.”
‘Itinerant brewing’ a first step for local brewers
Local beer maker Kevin Hingston, from Pact Beer Co, agreed that in recent years Canberra’s craft brewing scene had gone from strength to strength.
“When I started getting into craft beer, we had Zierholz and Wig and Pen,” he said.
“Since then we’ve had Bentspoke come along, ourselves and now Capital, and a lot of small pubs bringing in their own brewing.
“One of the craft brewing bloggers has been doing a per capita (count) across the states, and is suggesting that we could be the highest on a per-capita basis. It depends how you count, but certainly … the ACT’s right up there.
“It’s a really exciting scene to be part of.”
Pact Beer Co are a relatively recent addition to the ACT’s craft beer scene.
The company began in 2015, after Mr Hingston achieved notoriety within brewing circles by winning the Australian Amateur Brewing Championships the year before.
Hoping to capitalise on the win, he and two friends began an “itinerant brewing” operation.
“Basically we hire out space in other people’s breweries to make our products,” he said.
Much of Pact Beer Co’s brewing is done from Victoria, but there is also a local arm working from the Wig and Pen.
“We went a different route to the way a lot of people do … to spend a year or two ramping up, getting a lot of investment to have a brewery,” Mr Hingston said.
“We were pretty passionate that the three partners, Marc (Grainger), Tim (Osborne) and myself were the owners of the company. So we decided to go a more organic approach.”
With names like ‘Mount Tennent Pale Ale’ and ‘Three Lakes Hefeweizen’ (“It’s cloudy like Canberra’s lakes,” Mr Hingston jokes), the nomenclature of their beers include subtle references to the ACT.
Could we reach ‘peak beer’?
The trio’s next step is to open its own dedicated brewing operations and they are well on the way to achieving that dream.
Their brews are available around the country — and in many Canberra bottle shops and venues — and although there’s work yet to be done, it seems likely to become a reality.
“It’s a growing scene. It can be profitable, but it’s a lot of hard work,” Mr Hingston said.
Mr Hingston said some industry commentators had suggested Australia could be reaching “peak beer” — but he doesn’t believe that’s the case.
“People will always start to look at the negatives … but I think we’re a while off,” he said.
“We look at New Zealand, they’re a good five to 10 years ahead of us. We look at America where they have four or five breweries in a town with 70,000 people in it. There’s definitely more room to grow.”
And that’s alright by today’s festival-goers.
Beer lover Grant Lukins is a return visitor to the event — and said it was great to see such strong support for craft brewing.
“I love it. The more craft beer the better.”
For more information on this craft beer article, or get other beer, bar, pub, bottle shop specials, or craft beer discounts go to: http://www.abc.net.au