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In Conversation with Brewers Feast Co-Founder Tyson McGeoch

Including an Australian brewery first using hops from an American breeding program, plus a range of pale ales, sours, coffee stouts and more, Brewers Feast promises to be a beer lover’s paradise, with the food and music to match.

We chat to festival Co-Founder Tyson McGeoch to find out more about the beer, food and good vibes that will be going down at the festival in 2017.

As a boutique beer festival, Brewers Feast prides itself on presenting the best food to match with the best beers. Why have you gone the extra mile to make sure the food is just as an important part of the Brewers Feast experience?

Being a festival focussed on matching beers, we want to deliver something that will delight the tastebuds and rival the best food offered across Melbourne. The matching experience is only as good as the beer and food, so having great quality food, freshly prepared and cooked to perfection is vital. When you get this, the experience of matching with beer is simply amazing, arguably even better than wine because the beers have such diverse flavours and styles that wines just don’t have. One of the exciting food options we have this year is Fancy Hanks, the CBD restaurant that does American-style slow cooked barbeque, who will serve up tasty barbeque, some of the best in Melbourne!

This year you have 14 festival beers, specially crafted for Brewers Feast. Have you had the pleasure of sampling these new drops to help match them with food over the weekend?

Haha I wish! The festival beers are still being created so getting any samples prior to being finished wouldn’t do them justice! The matching process here is a challenge so we’ve got a general guide to provide suggestions on what beer you should consider with a certain type of food.

The festival beers are the highlight for both Travis (Co-Founder) and myself. When we created the festival, it was a goal of having beers brewed specifically for the festival that showcase what the brewers can do. It’s great to see that so many brewers are jumping on board to create something for the festival. With 14 different festival beers ranging in styles, from pale ales to sours to coffee stouts, there will be something for everyone to try alongside the much-loved core beers.

How involved are you with the breweries in the creation of the festival beers? Do you provide some direction to make sure you don’t end up with too many similar creations?

How much fun would that be to get around to a number of brewers helping create the beer! Time aside it’s more enjoyable to let the brewers do what they do best, create beer! Fortunately, all the brewers have their own unique styles and preferences so there will be a range of beers, each is a little reflection of the brewery or brewer’s personality.

We had the great privilege of having a brew day with Prickly Moses, out past Geelong. It was an early morning to get there but an amazing experience. Luke (the head brewer) had some basic ideas for the beer and we were able to have some input to make it a hoppy pale ale. The hops used are from the American Hop Breeding program and it’s the first time it’s being used in an Australian brewed beer. The hops ADHA-527 are expected to create flavours of anise, stone fruit, and spice. We can’t wait to taste this beer and hope everyone attending does too as it’s a first in Australia!

Is there one in particular that you’ll be recommending on the day, and what food would you match it with?

Just one?! It’s hard to keep it to just one beer and food pairing. The best suggestion is for the Stockade Brew Co. Duel Hoppy Lager which everyone gets to try for free at the festival. The lager is hoppy but it’s still a very balanced beer that anyone can enjoy, great pairings would be with some fish and chips or calamari or something spicy such as Mexican, both of which will be available at the festival!

The other suggestion is to come along to the Stockade Brew Co. food pairing session where you can try samples of beer with a range of foods, from meats to cupcakes and dark chocolate. Also, as a little surprise is the Stockade Brew Co. barrel aged sneak peek. These are limited release beers that have been ageing in different barrels for up to two years. Each is paired to top off the experience. Look out for posters and suggestions in the program, at bars and posters around the festival or ask one of the brewers what they suggest.

There are a lot of different beers on offer over the course of the weekend. How do you recommend people go about trying so many different offerings responsibly?

There are a few tips to work your way around the festival, the first is to start with the low ABV and lighter flavours, begin with lagers and amber ales, progress to Pale Ales, then IPA’s, all before you head to the dark beers. This will mean your palate can manage rather than jumping from a light balanced lager to a hoppy, bitter IPA and then back. Secondly, work out a game plan. Do you want to try more of the festival beers or are you looking to explore some core range beers that you know and love, or haven’t tried before? Thirdly, pace yourself. You’ve got all day, so no need to rush through six beers in the first hour. Take it slowly and appreciate the style and flavour of each. Beers are served in a range of sizes so take advantage, taking smaller tastings rather than a full glass means you can try more beers without drinking too much. Try the beers and then when you find something you love, that’s a good time to get a full class. The festival is about exploring the unique styles and flavours of beer and cider, not about how many you can consume! Finally, don’t drink and drive. There are plenty of transport options around the Convent and we recommend Uber as a convenient way to get home. After a great day of beers, cider and food, we want you to get home safely.

The opening night of Brewers Feast is The Last Supper – a six-course meal, with a beer to match each course, including two desserts. In creating this experience, what came first, the beers or the food?

The Last Supper is going to be a fantastic night of food and beer! The menu is diverse and should challenge but delight those tastebuds. In this case it was a mixture of menu first then looking for beers that would be suitable. We did have some beers in mind, so we’ve found a way to incorporate these. The dinner will be a great night of exploring beer and pairings across a variety of foods.

Apart from having different brews and food on offer, what else is new for Brewers Feast in 2017?

Well the 14 Bintani Festival Beers are the newest addition to 2017. This is the highlight for anyone who takes their craft beer even just a little bit too seriously! The pairing sessions with Stockade are new. With limited places to participate these will be popular – especially as it’s some free beer and food samples.

Finally, there is also artist and beer pairing. Something we’re experimenting with this year is recommending a beer at the festival to pair with each artist performing – something that fits the music style, the artist’s personality, or a beer they enjoy. It’s a bit of fun to grab the beer, sit in the beautiful Convent gardens and enjoy the performance on the main stage. What better way to spend a Saturday or Sunday!

Brewers Feast 2017 takes place in the Convent’s heritage gardens Friday 1 – Sunday 3 December