Time Out Melbourne

It turns out a successful beer festival is one that's not all about the beer. Here's why...

How the hell has it taken so long for craft beer to catch on? It doesn’t seem possible that anyone could steadfastly hold onto a big brand tinnie in the face of something, with, oh, we don’t know, flavour, but the problem is often one of exposure. It usually only takes a few good beers to convert someone to the craft cause, but convincing drinkers to take that leap – especially when it means parting with a couple of extra dollars – can be a battle.

So while a few brewers mumbled that there was too much of a musical focus at the second annual Ballarat Beer Festival, we’re tipping our hats to the folks behind the event. Using the lures of beardy musical folk artists the Beards, and a petting zoo (baby goats! Pigs!) they drew in a crowd on Saturday that went far beyond the pure beer-geek pack.

Between the Eureka tent where information sessions covering topics like ‘how the hell do I open a brewery’ were held and the 40 brewer stalls (double the number from last year, including the boys from Cavalier who have just set up their own brew house as well as the long standing champs from Red Hill, and Moo Brew), the crowds jumped on bales of straw to brass bands and rock bands. There was a beard-off, carnie fries, and again, that glorious petting zoo. There’s just nothing nicer than drinking an IPA and patting a goat. That’s a fact.

Being the festival’s second year, there were the expected snags (they could use better ticket processing at the gates to speed up entry; more toilets; more shade), but overall, they managed to trick a whole lot more people into loving craft beer, even if they came for a ho-down and fell into the Kooinda’s Hop Transfusion by mistake(which took out People’s Choice for the day). Genius.

If you missed out, the Geelong festival is happening in two weeks - get there, and put the ‘rat in your diary for next year.

Updated on 24 Mar 2014.

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