By Jonathan Porter
The organisers of the Adelaide Beer and BBQ Festival – set to become the nation’s premier liquid gold bash – have made one thing clear.
You don’t need to have a beard or sleeve tattoo to attend – just a love of great natural brew and an appreciation of fine ‘cue.
Held over three days from Friday July 10 2016, the shindig showcased the exploding number of South Australian and Australian craft breweries and cideries, as well as some international breweries.
The festival incorporated a barbecue theme and allowed visitors to sample local, national and world beers and ciders while enjoying barbecue from local producers as well as masters of tongs and burners from Australia and the US.
The Festival’s Ambassador Duncan Welgemoed of Adelaide stalwart Africola says 2016’s annual liquid amber fiesta at the city’s showgrounds – the bash’s second iteration – cemented the event as the nation’s best beer appreciation knees up.
The South African expat has a chef father, Portuguese and Italian godparents, and a music addiction — all of which have come together to create his unique cooking ethos – also curated the barbecue menu for the bacchanal.
“It is already the best,’’ says Welgemoed, adding that it is important for South Australian brewers, and indeed beer craftsmen around the nation, to have an opportunity to showcase their cooling and thirst slaking liquid wares.
“Especially in South Australia, with there being so much emphasis on wine and wine tastings, it is important to focus on our fantastic brewers.
“It’s a terrific opportunity, particularly our younger brewers, to show everyone what they can do.”
Brewers group’s steep ascent
He singled out plundering South Australian brewers Pirate Life as an example of cutting-edge young brewers responding to the market and producing world beating beers.
“They are South Australian and they are smashing out incredible lighter style beers that people tend to go with.”
As far as Australian beers go generally, he says Sydney-based Young Henrys “are doing some exceptional stuff”.
He also nominated Victorian brewer Hawkers’ for their light beers and Tasmanian Ashley Huntington’s Two Metre Tall Company as standouts.
The ridiculously vertical Huntington produces farmhouse ales and ciders using farm-grown ingredients from his 600ha property in the Derwent Valley.
His beers were at first considered so undrinkable that he was a pariah in the microbrew community and he actually received threats to his wellbeing if he did not cease and desist – as a gesture to beer lovers everywhere and with the survival of the nation’s nascent boutique brews at stake.
But his barrel ageing, spontaneous fermentations, experimentation and everything in between are now yielding astonishing results, with fruits in ales, barrel fermentation and more.
On light vs dark beers, Welgemoed says: “Lighter beers go with spice in my opinion, whether it’s African or Asian or even American, I prefer a lighter beer – you don’t feel to feel too full or heavy after smashing about six.”
Welgemoed says he is “extremely proud” of Adelaide’s brewers competing in a marketplace that used to be a wholly owned subsidiary of a single craft beer – the mighty Lunatic Soup, known more commonly thereabouts as Coopers.
“It’s a bit tricky for our brewers because you have Coopers here. They dominate the market and overshadow what the little guys are doing.
“Making the step to come out of the Coopers’ shadow and compete is no easy feat.”
He says listening to the market is important, as craft beer – or microbreweries – only make up about 4 per cent of the market which itself is dominated by the industrial liquid giants.
“So you have to be responsive if you are going to compete.”
Welgemoed’s perfect day at the Adelaide Beer and BBQ Festival: “Grab a quick snack to line the stomach then hit all beers.”
He then advises: “Enjoy the excellent music line-up and have a wander over to Rodney Scott cooking his famous pigs then get some more beer and eat and drink until you feel like dancing.”
Tats to beards quotient at the Adelaide Beer and BBQ festival
Finally I summon the courage to ask him the beard and tats question. Will you be barred if you come with a freshly planed-off phiz and with no ink permanently penetrating your epidermis?
“Yes, all who love beer and barbecue are welcome … just as long as you don’t have a man bun,” he says with a laugh.
Whew! No man bun possessor I, who lacks even an undercut.
Festival manager Gareth Lewis says it is incredibly important to showcase South Australian beer.
South Australia is arguably the fastest growing beer industry in the country, with a “massive explosion” in the number of new brands and more brands opening up than in any other state.
The biggest mover of the past 12 months has been Pirate Life, he says.
“Their core range of double IPAs are through the roof.”
They are third in Craft Beer’s Hottest 100 behind brands Feral’s Hop Hog and Pacific Ale’s Stone and Wood.
Their US West Coast-style beers all come in cans and have “hit the mark” with drinkers, he says.
Divisions in the ranks
He says the Festival has deliberately been divided into different segments to appeal to a range of beer aficionados and while Adelaide is an incubator for the bearded and inked look, he says it is very much “come one, come all”.
“The Festival is for anyone – from an avid beer fanatic to people with a passing interest.”
The Friday night session was for the after-work crowd, he says, with plenty of office workers in bags of fruit. Saturday is for beer geeks with talks by brewers, and there is a separate session on Saturday night set aside for party night with a big line-up of entertainment.
Sunday has been given the moniker of Snean Sunday – meaning sneakers and jeans.
Enough beer to float a Death Star
Different stalls showcased beers or ciders and some exhibitors will launch special or one-off brews for the event, which are always gratefully received.
To be run concurrently with the Royal Adelaide Show Beer Awards, the Festival was held in the Showground’s Brick Dairy Pavilion and adjacent lawns.
And there were plenty of ablutions, because you know, one thing can lead to another when you are eating an insane quantity of pork, fowl, and red meat while consuming enough beer to float a Death Star.
As the largest event of its type in South Australia and with the Festival hosting nearly 8000 guests in 2015 and organisers estimated approximately 15,000 attendees over 2016’s three-day event.
The beer line-up so far included 4 Pines (NSW), Barossa Valley, Big Shed, Brooklyn (USA), Clare Valley, Coopers, Grumpy’s, Hoffbrau (Germany), Lady Burra, Moo Brew (Tasmania), Pikes, Pirate Life, Stone & Wood (NSW), Weihenstephan (Germany), and Young Henry’s.
Ciders included Aussie Cider, Barossa Cider Co, Kangaroo Island Ciders, Lobo Cider and Sidewood Cider.
Go the whole hog
As Welgemoed mentioned, legendary pit master Rodney Scott brought his legendary pig cooking skills all the way from Hemmingway South Carolina by recreating his famed whole hog smokehouse at the Festival.
His folks, Ella and Roosevelt “Rosie” Scott, opened Scott’s Pit Cook BBQ in 1972, and Rodney still continues their tradition in the same location to this day.
The family secret, according to Rodney, is that “we put a whole lot of love into what we do”.
Hailed by The New York Times and Anthony Bourdain for producing just about the best darned hog in the Carolinas, or South Australia for that matter, portions of the beast (the hog, not Scott) will be available on Saturday and Sunday.
Mary’s Burgers, Sydney’s original burger, beer, rock’n’roll and bourbon joint came to Adelaide for the first time.
Local tucker stars included Africola, Comida, Gilbert Street Hotel, Golden Boy and Sneaky Pickle.
The musical playlist included Koral & The Goodbye Horses, Oisima Live, Panama, Shaoilin Afronauts, The Gentleman’s Record Club DJs, The John Steel Singers, The Montreals, The New Yorks and the Wasted Wanderers.
Young corsairs make their marque
Welgemoed’s local beer pick, Pirate Life, first swashbuckled its way onto the craft beer scene in 2015, although it is to their discredit that they (so far) don’t have beers called Grappling Hook or Boarding Party on their horizons or even on the starboard bow.
Their Pale Ale is darker than most local pales, with initial aromas consistent with the Pirates’ two favourite hop varieties: cascade and mosaic.
Nothing about the Pirate Life’s double IPA is small: it comes in a giant 500ml tin, with an equally giant 8.8 per cent alcohol count and comes with big flavours and hop aromas and is sadly not named Gigantor.
Have two and then try to calculate how many standard drinks you have consumed, then give up and order another.
CEO Michael Cameron believes the double IPA can be drunk at any point in the day: breakfast, lunch or dinner.