Illawarra brewers to create new tipples

Come May, two South Coast breweries will be rubbing shoulders with counterparts from across Australia and overseas.

The event will be the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS), held in Melbourne as part of that city's Good Beer Week.

In its second year, GABS is a prestigious and popular festival where breweries are invited to brew a beer they've never made before and unveil it in Melbourne.

Wollongong's Illawarra Brewing Company (IBC) and Nowra's HopDog BeerWorks are participating.

Also on the bill are a range of Australian and New Zealand breweries, as well as some big names from overseas, like Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Brewery from the United States, Mikkeller from Denmark and Nogne O from Norway.

Both South Coast breweries took part in last year's event.

For Tim Thomas at HopDog, taking his black IPA called Children of Darkness to the festival last year really paid off.

"We got so much response for it from GABS that we decided to do it as a bottle and keg release afterwards," Mr Thomas said.

"Every time we've gone 'That's been a long enough run, we'll get rid of it' we get orders in for cases after cases and kegs after kegs. So we have not been able to stop brewing it."

Given the popularity of last year's beer, Mr Thomas said there was a bit of pressure to come up with something just as good.

He's decided on a Belgian IPA but is keeping the name and the rest of the details a surprise.

Mr Thomas said that being a part of GABS could be a big deal for a brewery.

"Definitely, you look at what happened with last year's one and the beers that were produced for it," he said.

"Some of them have picked up some really great awards and really gotten a lot of notice as well.

"If you can get a spot in GABS, it's one of those things that if the beers are done well and you get some good response out of it, it could very well be a big step up for you."

Ashur Hall, one of the brewers at IBC, feels a similar sort of pressure. Last year, their Saison Rouge was one of the top 20 beers at the festival.

"That wasn't through voting, it was through actual beer sold," Mr Hall said.

"People kept going back and buying it, so it's not just how many people tried it. It's how many people liked it so much that they went back to have a second beer.

"So what we hope to do again is make a beer that people like and that they want to drink."

Mr Hall and fellow IBC brewer Shaun Blissett have narrowed this year's beer down to two options.

"We've been working on a couple of ideas of what we're going to do," Mr Hall said.

"Two ideas that we're toying over at the moment - they're both barrel-aged - one of them is a black saison and the other is a brown ale.

"We haven't fully come to terms with what we're going to do in that respect but it's definitely going to be a darker-themed beer to go with the month and the season that it [GABS] is in."

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