Monday, 21 January 2013

A Love Affair and A Beer Fest

By Steve and Angela East


Once upon a time I was a young, bright-eyed suburban girl who decided to reach out and gain some independence. I moved to Ballarat where I was currently going to uni. It wasn't long before I fell in love...

With the town that is.

Before I knew it I was breathing a sigh of relief every time I took the Ballarat exit off the highway and drove into town and through the picturesque streets, which by the way, are beautifully maintained. The streets are clean, the gardens and nature strips are always adorned with foliage and flowers and the buildings ooze vintage nostalgia. I had so much time on my hands back then, so when I wasn't in the car, sometimes I gazed upon its beauty while walking, other times I nourished it and fed its soul by spending far too much cash at its ridiculous array of shops, cafes, restaurants and clubs.

It wasn't just the town itself though...there was an air about the people who lived there too. So much breezier than the its suburban counterpart that I had come from, and before I knew it, whenever I was away, I longed to be back there, just BEING. It was honestly the first time I had ever been in love with a place.

I cheated though. I had to move. And so off I went to Castlemaine for a few years, then St Arnaud which is my current place of residency. I got married too, and thus, my love affair with Ballarat ended.

Like all good love affairs though, the flame can be rekindled at anytime, so it was with absolute pleasure that I took the opportunity to attend (and review) the Ballarat Beer Festival.

As we arrived I knew Ballarat was not going to let me down. The sun was shining, the crowds were bustling and the air smelt of beery, foody goodness.

The lines were fast moving and it didn't take us long to get into the gates. The first thing I noticed was how impressively large the marquees were and the seating areas. There was plenty of shade and if you didn't make it under the marquee, then you could always lounge under an umbrella or just park yourself on a patch of grass. 50 micro-breweries, 25 food stalls and children's entertainment ran a ring around the entire oval and bands rocked their hearts out from the main stage.

Having the little guy on my tail meant I was all for the children's entertainment, and so off we went. Breeze hosted face painting. Who doesn't love face painting?  I didn't think my little guy would sit still for long enough to have his face painted though so we headed straight to the animal farm.

They were fabulous! There was plenty of room for the children to move around and if you wanted to take something a little precious out for a pat you could, like the little duckling Mr.T got his hands on...

There was of course, the classic jumping castle too, to keep kiddies well and truly, jumping!

There were such a large variety of food stalls that it was hard to choose. It varied from usual fried food, to gyoza dumplings and Spanish paella. I liked the concept of using your tokens for food and drink but did feel there was a massive change in the amount of tokens food vendors were charging.

It's fantastic that the festival caters for families and young people alike. It really was a fantastic mix in the crowd. While I couldn't stay as long as I would have liked, I still got a fantastic experience to boot! So if you think a Beer Festival isn't really a family outing, then think again my friend, because Ballarat has managed to wrangle it.

It was about the Beer though. And The Beards...and so I give you...


The sun was shining and I'm sure there were birds singing somewhere. I was there for two things. Beer and beards! The Beer Festival supplied patrons with a tasting glass that was attached to a handy lanyard.  I was able to click my glass on and off my lanyard which was handy as it meant that I couldn’t lose my glass after I had finished my drink. This also helped to keep the area tidy.  For a festival where everyone was drinking and eating I thought that the oval remained remarkably clean.

There were SO many drinks to choose from!  Of course there was beer and its many, many varieties, but there was also a great range of ciders and some wineries were present as well.  Some people had made a list beforehand of drinks they were planning to sample, and others, like myself, just went to a stall at random or one that I thought had a cool name.  This was a bit of a hit and miss affair but it also meant that I got to sample drinks that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, like a “pink grapefruit & Darjeeling tea premium lager fusion”.

The pamphlet that they handed to patrons as they came through the gates was very clear and informative, which was wonderful for those who wanted to make their lists.  They had also developed an app which did the same thing but also allowed you to take notes. I used this function for my first few drinks and then didn’t worry about it.

The interactive information sessions that they held at the “Eureka Marquee” were fascinating!  I went to a session called ‘It’s just like Chuck & Cheese”.  It was led by Dr Charles (Chuck) Hahn, Master Brewer, who has been in the game since the 70s.  It had been advertised as a session to inform us as to “why the humble amber nectar actually creates a fine partner of all kinds of cheese” but Chuck was also a wealth of information about not just matching beer to cheese but to all kinds of food. I left that session full of good cheese, good chocolate and good beer!

I also must add that there was an ample supply of FREE clean, fresh water.  The St John’s First Aid crew were also present and they even offered free sunscreen.

The entertainment on offer was top notch!  While sampling the many varieties of drinks, patrons were treated to an audible delight as bands such as the Royal Jelly Dixieland Band and the Sweethearts provided music to help set the mood.  But at 6:55 the crème de le crème of music took the stage... The Beards! This was what I had been looking forward to for weeks in advance, and with good reason.

If you like folk-rock music and you love beards then The Beards are the band for you.  I was up front and centre with a mate and our beards as The Beards took to the stage and churned through an hour of beard related music from their 3 album catalogue to the delight of a very beard happy crowd.  I always enjoy it when a band interacts with their audience and it doesn’t matter if you’re Eddie Vedder or Johann Beardraven, good audience banter goes a long a way and the Beer Festival crowd lapped it up.

The Beards finished their set right on closing time for the festival.  People were able to depart City Oval in a quick and orderly manner.  There were breath testing booths set up for those who were planning on driving home.  I didn’t worry about such things as City Oval is close to Ballarat’s CBD and after a short walk many people were able to be at their accommodation, a restaurant or even a hotel (if they wanted to kick on).

The Ballarat Beer Festival is an Annual event and we are hoping to be there next year! Keep your eye out in 2014, or go and like their Facebook page so you can stay updated!

Thanks to Jedo for allowing us to review the festival. Jedo is a great resource for thousands of events across Australia. Check them out!


  1. Awesome! Will have to fill hubby in with this one, being not so far away to drive for next year. We are looking forward to the Port Fairy folk festival soon :)

  2. It's a wonderful feeling when you really click with a place. You painted such a vivid picture that I felt like I was there. Love the "beery, foody goodness" line too!

    Visiting from IBOT.

  3. Fabulous post Angela :) It was a great day hey!!

  4. Sounds like an excellent day, especially with so much to keep the kids entertained. Farm animals are always a good idea no matter the age!