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The best beer & cider festivals in Australia

Take part in amazing ale-themed events while indulging in some of the best beers and ciders the nation has to offer.

By Cole Latimer

Australia is known globally for its high quality beers and ciders, with a number of events showcasing the country’s best brews.

Drink it in

Great Australasian Beer Spec-tap-ular, Sydney and Melbourne

The largest single beer and cider festival in the country, the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) features food, fare, and carnival entertainment in Melbourne and Sydney each May. The event is a stand-out for its unique 120 Festival Beers, brewed specifically for GABS, as well as a number of other craft beers and ciders that are available to try. Circus performers roam the festival hall to provide ongoing entertainment and games around the site such as giant Jenga and table tennis units keep the fun dial turned to high. All food at the event has a beer pairing, as suggested by GABS’ official app, while food and drink seminars provide a deep dive into beer and cider gastronomy. The event's Local Taphouse also presents Craft College, a series of free educational seminars, Q&Ales and panel talks. Attendees can also vote for the best beer or cider at the event.

Key dates: 18 - 20 May, 2018 (Melbourne) & 2 June, 2018 (Sydney)

Sydney Craft Beer Week, Sydney

Sydney Craft Beer Week is one of the major beer and cider shows in Sydney featuring events across 75 venues each October. However, there’s more than just beer and cider to be had. There are activities such as food and drink matching for everything, from burgers through to chocolate desserts. There are also sporting tournaments, axe throwing, oyster shucking and other unique experiences. The week is capped off by the Sydney Craft Beer awards, which laud top quality brews, creations, sellers and venues around the country.

Key dates: dates to be announced

Bitter & Twisted Boutique Beer Festival, Maitland

This festival is hosted in a unique location – an old jail. Bitter & Twisted brings together beer, music and food from across the globe and it all takes place inside the disused Maitland Gaol on the first weekend in November. More than 80 craft beers are available for tasting and to liven up proceedings a line-up of bands are there to entertain festival goers. Food stalls on site include wood-fired pizza, blinis and burgers. Get in quick for the masterclasses on home brewing and if all that fails to impress, wander through historic Maitland Gaol which first opened its doors to prisoners in 1848. Maitland is a two hour drive north of Sydney.

Key dates: 3 - 4 November, 2018

The Central Coast Craft Beer & Cider Festival, Central Coast

Now in its sixth year, the Central Coast Craft Beer & Cider Festival at Kincumber Hotel draws more than 2000 attendees to sample a huge variety of the best craft beer and cider from around the country. Visitors get to cast their vote for the four best beers and ciders and the event also features live music and food stalls. If you are feeling lucky, you can go in the draw for a year's free supply of craft beer and cider. The New South Wales Central Coast is one and a half hour's drive north of Sydney.

Key dates: June 2018 (dates to be announced) 

Good Beer Week, Melbourne

Recognised globally as Australia’s pre-eminent beer events, Good Beer Week (GBW) features more than 270 different events across Melbourne and Victoria. Held annually in May, GBW attracts around 75,000 attendees from Australia and around the world. The line up includes masterclasses, big name chefs, degustations, live music and even a fashion show. The festivities kick off with the Good Beer Week Gala Showcase, held in March at Federation Square, and features brewers from Victoria and beyond.

Key dates: 11 - 20 May, 2018

The Great Australia Beer Festival, Geelong

The Great Australian Beer Festival, held at Geelong Racecourse, offers more than 200 craft beers and ciders as well as three stages featuring live bands. For some added froth, you can try a game of keg rolling on the track. The event has pop-up bars, terraced gardens and an international beer hall with enough brews to satisfy all tastes. A cocktail corner for spirit-fanciers completes the liquid line-up. Food wise, gourmet food stalls are spread throughout the site plus there are food and beer matching seminars. Geelong is located a one hour drive from Melbourne, or one and a half hours by train.

Key dates: 17 February, 2018

Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival, Canberra

Now in its 10th year, the annual Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival, held in March, hosts more than 80 different beers and ciders. Food stalls ring the event, with live bands and entertainment, as well as guest speakers sharing their expertise on brewing.

Key dates: 24 March, 2018

Queensland Beer Week, Queensland

Fifty breweries take part in this massive state-wide event, running from Brisbane out to Mount Isa, and the Sunshine Coast down to Coolangatta. A range of bars have partnered with Queensland Beer Week to bring craft and international beers to this celebration of the great fermented drop. Roll up for tastings, seminars on food and beer pairings and other educational events. A unique event is a ghost tour and beer tasting at the Boggo Road Gaol.

Key dates: November 2018 (dates to be announced)

Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival, Adelaide

Held over three days in July, the Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival features beers, ciders, barbecue and bands. There are more than 50 different brewers, several cider makers, and craft beer makers showcasing their beverages at the event. Food wise you can expect tantalising South African barbecue, whole smoked meats and mouth-watering burgers. The event is held in conjunction with the Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards.

Key dates: 27 - 30 July, 2018

Lions Beer Can Regatta, Darwin

The Beer Can Regatta is not just about beer. The main event involves teams building boats out of beer cans and then racing them on Darwin’s harbour. Unlike other beer festivals in the country, a major focus of the event is raising money for charity. There are also a number of other smaller events at the festival, such as the thong (flip flop) throw and a tug of war, as well as food stalls.

Key dates: 22 July, 2018 

Beer Lovers Week, Hobart

Each January, Hobart’s waterfront is transformed for Tasmania’s Beer Lovers Week. The event is one of the biggest in Australia, featuring over 300 brews. Indulge in the Tasmanian Beer Trail, which takes you on a journey from the Esk BeerFest in the north of the island down to the Hobart BeerFest in the south, featuring beer matched dinners, brewer masterclasses, tap takeovers and trivia. If the event is too much to take in, why not check out the Tasmanian Micro-Brew Fest, a separate one-day event in Hobart focused on local beers.

Key dates: dates to be announced

WA Beer Week, Perth

This West Australian fixture has been delighting ale drinkers since 2002. Kicking off in Fremantle, WA Beer Week takes in events up and down the west coast, from Perth to Busselton. The jam-packed schedule includes beer dégustations, new beer releases and behind-the-scenes tours. The festival features a number of craft and high quality beers and has something to please all visitors.

Key dates: dates to be announced

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