A record crowd of 27,600 people has attended the The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) Beer, Cider & Food Fest in Melbourne and Sydney over the past two weekends, beating last year’s record by 22 per cent.

While the 120 specialty festival beers made just for GABS were as popular as ever, cider fans also got a look in this year, with festival ciders introduced for the first time.

While there were still plenty of IPAs and more traditional brews on show, there was a distinct focus on sour beers – with a dedicated bar – and less mainstream styles.

The Beer & Brewer People’s Choice Award was again decided for the Australian GABS events. Queensland’s Bacchus Brewing Co following on from its successes in previous years, again taking home Best Festival Beer, this time for its salty, sweet Peanut Brittle Gose.

Gose is a unique style of beer that incorporates a fair wack of salt in the recipe, in order to mimic the salty water of the ruined water table in the town of Gose in Germany, where the style originates. The salty, slighty sour brew has been growing in popularity recently as the craft beer trend continues to expand.

Best Festival Cider was taken out by The Hills Cider Company from South Australia, with its Barrel Aged Sour Cherry Cider impressing the festival attendees.

Barrel aged ciders are slowly coming to the fore as the craft cider market in Australia expands, following in the footsteps of boutique wine and craft beer. Unlike the sugar-laden ciders that can be found on the market, these ciders have a lot of depth and potential funk from barrel aging on lees much like wine.

On the food front, Three Blue Ducks’ Brisket Burger won hearts in Sydney, taking out Best Food Dish, while The Local Taphouse’s Southern Fried Chicken won out in Melbourne.

Festival organiser Steve Jeffares says that he and fellow organiser Guy Greenstone were “absolutely thrilled” by the response to GABS 2016 in Melbourne and Sydney.

“There is clearly a growing appreciation and awareness of craft beer and cider across the country and we are very proud of the part GABS plays in that,” he says. “Our whole team worked so hard to raise our game again each year and it’s very gratifying that so many of the new elements and improvements went down so well.”

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