Drunken Speculation

How to GABS

gabs venueIt’s that time of year. Up here, the humidity starts to drop and the winds pick up. In the south, the leaves start turning. We’re well into autumn and it’s time for the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular.

I’ve travelled to Melbourne for the last two GABS Festivals and I’ve done it all, including (especially) everything in this post. In fact, the festival organisers were so happy with the positive press of the last two years, that they’ve offered me a media pass for the Sydney event, which I’ve accepted (DISCLOSED MOTHERFUCKERS). I hope they’re happy with this puff piece.

[If the media pass doesn’t make it to me for whatever reason, by June GABS will be the most anti-feminist, racist, homophobic, fascist beer festival on the planet. Even worse than Fluid Festival.]

I say ‘puff piece’ but really this is a how-to guide. Everyone loves those; the last one I wrote got multi-award-winning blogger Oliver Gray to admit he doesn’t know the first thing about blogging. This, however, is a guide to GABSing. Yes, GABS is now a verb and this is how you should do it when at the Royal Exhibition Hall, Carlton in Melbourne on May 22 – 24 and/or Australian Technology Park (really?), Everleigh in Sydney on May 30.

Firstly, if you’re in Melbourne, go to as much Good Beer Week stuff as you can in the lead-up. Turn up to GABS cranky, tired and hungover.

Before you get to GABS, fully peruse the guide to the beers. If that’s not enough, go to Beer is Your Friend and read all about them from the brewer’s perspective. Narrow the list from 118 down to a lean 117 must-trys. Plan your paddles in advance and then promptly forget to write down how you planned your paddles.

GABS paddles 2

Ignore advice from seasoned beer people.

Their palates are jaded and their notes meaningless (“What’s this ‘earthy’ bullshit? Beer doesn’t have dirt in it.”). You’re here to tick beers off and by God, that’s what you’re going to do. The GABS app even makes this process ultra-streamlined so you can knock back as many as possible. SHARE EVERY SINGLE CHECK-IN TO TWITTER.

On arrival on the big day, bitch and moan about how long it’s taking you to get in. Note that the line for one-session-only ticket holders is non-existent because why would anyone be anywhere else at midday on Friday? General admission pass holders are obviously getting deliberately and maliciously screwed with the ten minute wait.

gabs sunday

Once you finally get inside, when moving around the venue, don’t take into account that other people are moving slowly because they have a precariously balanced paddle of very expensive, very rare beer. Take your own route and stuff everyone else. Put your elbows out. Stand in the middle of circulation spaces, having a nice ol’ chat. Push and shove if need be.

When you get to the front of the line, make sure you have no idea how the beers are laid out or what you want. Take up as much time as humanly possible deciding. Beer geeks are well known for being patient and understanding while waiting in line for limited release beers. Ensure the chalk marks on your paddle are unintelligible to the volunteers so they have to confirm it verbally and re-write it for you.

GABS paddle and garry

If sitting at a long table, take up as much space as possible. Yell to your friends sitting a metre away. It’s a huge hall so no one will know how much you do know (“MMM, BUTTERY”) or don’t know about beer (“I LIKE IT BECAUSE IT’S PINK”) if you don’t let everyone know at a volume appropriate for a football match. If you’re forced to sit close to strangers, bump them as much as possible. Fuck it, shake the whole table each time you get up and sit down. Each taster is 30 85mL, who cares if you spill a bit?

Actually, treat GABS like you would Oktoberfest. You’re there to get pissed, not sample finely crafted beers. Act like a huge German jackass in lederhosen. Everyone will love your contribution to the atmosphere, especially if it includes slurred obscenities and vomit. Oh, you just made my black IPA sour by spitting up in it? Thanks.

Don’t forget to vote for the People’s Choice. Make your selection loudly known on social media. Brag if you voted for the one that takes out the gong.

Lastly, make sure you come back next year. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

Yes, that was a master class in sarcasm. GABS is great but it’d be even better if some people displayed a little more self-awareness. It’s for your own safety because when I’m in full ticking mode, I have even less patience than usual and typically have a heavy wooden bat in my hands…


  1. Jack

    Tips for the out-of-towners: No matter how much you know about beer, you don’t live across the road from the Taphouse/Alehouse/Foresters etc so your opinion is invalid. Luke in the post above knows it.

    I’m personally just going to soak in the vibe and just drink cups of Yenda’s offering. Only the try-hards actually drink craft beer at GABS.

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