date of festival: Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 March 2013
I hate starting sentences like this but … When I lived in England I was an enthusiastic beer festival goer. English beer and ale is, perhaps, something of an acquired taste, but it has an impressive diversity, one which is championed by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the large number of microbreweries. My first beer festival (Maidstone, 2001) was probably to blame for my enthusiasm for real ales, and in particular porters and stouts.
Since being back in Adelaide I have missed both the style of beer and the range. But changes have been afoot in the local industry and small brewers are popping up all over the place. So when I saw that the Highway was running a craft beer festival I was keen to go.
Now Andy and I were lucky enough to win tickets on twitter, so for us the festival was free. Tickets were $30 a head (this got you a plastic schooner glass, marked at 100 and 200 mL, and 10 beer tokens) but I did see that the Highway also had at least one Facebook offer. A single token at most of the breweries got you (technically) 100mL (a great way of trying a beer without over committing – a very important beer festival tactic, as my friend Matt knows!). You could opt for 200mL or even full schooners (generally 2 and 3 tokens respectively), and food was available, which mostly appeared to be at a cost of four or five tokens. Additional tokens were available at $20 for 10.
The two highlight beers for me were South Australian. I started with Prancing Pony, a new brewery in Mount Barker. I kicked off with their Dark Ale: a lovely chocolate and coffee flavoured beer with the kick of bitterness from the dark roasted malt. I also checked out Birbeck’s, an even smaller and newer outfit who had two beers available: the Captain and the Four Brothers IPA.
The Captain is just 2.9% alcohol but packs a ton of flavour. Despite it being a bit fizzy and a bit cold, this is what in England would get called a session beer (er, yes, that’s responsible drinking for you!). It was a very refreshing, fruity beer which reminded me a lot of (I think – more than happy to be corrected on this one!) of Fuller’s Discovery.
The festival was held outside and despite a slightly damp morning, it turned into a beautiful afternoon. There was enough seating and shade and there was even entertainment. We arrived after lunch and left in time to head to Mitran da Dhaba for dinner, so we didn’t actually try out any of the main food offerings – although we were lucky enough to get a taste of the Highways pork ribs and they were delicious.
Someone on twitter asked me how the festival rated in the value for money stakes. This is a tough one. You didn’t actually have to pay to get into the festival (probably not a lot of point in going if you weren’t drinking or didn’t like beer though!), but you did need to part with the $30 for the glass and beer tickets. This works out at ~ $6 a schooner (working on $20 for 10 tokens, 3 tokens per full schooner), which is over the going odds for a standard draught beer. But then it wasn’t standard draught beers that were on offer. I guess my gut feeling is that $30 was slightly over the mark, but if you were able to win tickets or snaffle one of the Facebook offers you were definitely ahead.
Having said that, should the Craft Beer Festival become an annual event, I’ll probably be heading back … Well done to the Highway for showcasing a small industry and supporting some small South Australian players.