Beer Beer Beer
Rob Marston, of the Byron Bay Beer Festival speaks with The Echo ahead of the inaugural Beer & Cider celebration at Sun Bistro on Saturday.
Rob, what inspired you to host a beer festival?
Over the the course of the last few years I and my two brothers-in-law have been getting together over the delights of a craft beer (or two) and wondering why with the burgeoning craft beer industry there wasn’t an event in this area to cater to our needs. One day, possibly after more than two beers, we decided it was time that this wasn’t an issue any more and that we’d make our own. We enlisted the help of Jules from the Sun Bistro (which had already been heavily invested in with its extensive stock of ales and ciders) to join our festival team because of his infectious personality and insane craft-beer knowledge.
Why has Byron developed such a passion for craft beer? Are we known for our beers?
The craft-beer phenomenon has been spreading far and wide. Many of the best beers only a few years back were imported from the US, where the scene is developed and well established. Slowly but surely Aussie brewers were getting on board and interestingly this wasn’t confined to the major metros, nor was it something that grew out of the big breweries; this was a new movement of passionate, artisan trailblazers giving it a ‘fair go’ and rapidly making its mark on the local and increasingly international stage. In particular the local boys Stone & Wood (GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beer winner 2016) and Balter (GABS winner 2017) have ensured that the Byron Shire had been punching well above its weight with their Pacific Ale and XPA respectively. Maybe it’s the artisan nature of craft ale, maybe it’s the perfect beer-swilling climate; either way this is a region that is rapidly becoming synonymous with great craft beer!
What’s the secret to a good beer?
We are not fans of good beers, we like GREAT beers! A great beer is often a vision from a passionate brewer and a challenge to bring a dream into a quaffable liquid. Just like a great meal, a great beer starts with only the finest of ingredients, with brewers travelling far and wide to source the finest quality hops, grains and malt. As we’ve progressed through the festival and met more brewers it has become apparent to us that the best brewers are like fine artists or chefs; they are creative, love a challenge and do it for the love of beer (and often not for the financial rewards it can bring!).
And what about cider? What makes a good cider?
Like the beers, a great cider is based on great ingredients, and while we will have mainly beers on the day, the ciders differ thanks to the love and creativity that the brewer pours into them!
Tell me about who is going to have their beer at the festival – maybe a little about the brewers.
We have always had the aim that the festival should showcase the pick of the region. We will be featuring the local stalwarts that feature in most of the local pubs (Byron Bay Brewery, Stone & Wood and Balter), but also the smaller local players including Seven Mile Brewery in Ballina, which is just about to open its doors to the public. We’ve also hand-picked a bunch of our favourite interstate breweries – Young Henrys from Sydney, Gage Road from WA, Mornington Peninsular from Vic, and Coopers from SA. To complement this we also have sourced our food, live music and kids’ entertainment from the local area to ensure that quintessentially Byron flavour.
What should people expect for the weekend? Will there be non-alcoholic beer for the kids?
This is set to be a fun family affair, with all the ingredients for an epic inaugural event. Almost all of our 21 breweries are bringing a unique festival brew that you won’t be able to get in your local bottleshop. In addition attendees will get the opportunity to meet the brewer behind the beers, who will be on the stands. We will be running a brewing workshop in conjunction with Hooked on Brewing of Ballina, who will be showcasing the Grainfather range. We’ve also partnered with Bronsons Barbers of Brunswick, who will be trimming beards for the Beard of Byron competition with prizes available for the Crafty-est Beard (it’s a bit of a light-hearted joke on the hipsterness of the craft beer scene, but the joke is probably on us as the team are all bearded and definitely partial to a craft beer!) There won’t be non-alcoholic beers for kids, but there will be soft drinks, juices and waters available from the Sun Bistro.