For beer lovers, Michael Ward co-founder of the Great Australian Beer Festival (GABF) has a dream job: travelling the world sampling and experiencing the best beer and beer festivals on offer.
Michael said he’s passionate about events and has gone far and wide to ensure one of Geelong’s premier calendar events – the GABF – leads the pack when it comes to craft beer experiences.
“For the seventh year running the GABF will be the only event where all regional breweries attend at the same time. We evolve every year and change brewers to ensure no one gets bored, but we always guarantee local representation,” he said.
“So much research and effort goes into ensuring we attract the very best brewers across Australia, this year we have brewers representing every state.”
Serving up the best live entertainment, craft beer and food at the Geelong Racecourse on February 16, Michael said when he saw fellow organiser Kieran Blood looking from someone to help with the inaugural GABF he thought “ripper”.
“Originally Kieran already had someone lined up who was an electrician but they got a big contract so had to focus on that. He came across me and I thought ripper, at that stage I only really drank your stock standard beer,” he said.
“The first beer Festival was a great learning curve. I went to Sydney one weekend in the early days and in a regular pizza shop, they had around 40 different labelled beers to choose from.
“Researching across the world, America and New Zealand are a lot more advanced with craft beer selections – the last couple of years though Australia has really grown.”
Michael said the GABF has a specific demographic which helps them determine what their patrons want and how to best deliver a memorable experience.
“We also do extensive surveys after and the overwhelming feedback we got was the tasting cups were too small. People had to keep getting back up, so this year we’ve made them bigger to ensure people can relax and socialise on the lawn for longer,” he said.
Other changes include the introduction of cans for breweries that have them, once again addressing customer’s desire to be able to sit, drink and talk for longer periods.
For Michael, the GABF is all about making people happy.
“To me the beer festival is not just about the beer, there’s so much more to it than that. It’s about creating a social event where people can catch up with their friends and explore new music, while experiencing beer and cider. It’s good fun, I like making people happy,” he said.
For more information, go to gabfgeelong.com.au.