• Brewer Peter Denison with his "Durian Durian" beer - it’s relatively delicate and a little vegetal on the palette. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Great Australian Beer Spectapular festival challenges brewers to come up with weird and wonderful new beers. This year’s batch includes brews using snails, bubble gum, loukoumades and durian fruit.
Stephen A Russell

29 May 2018 - 3:08 PM  UPDATED 31 May 2018 - 5:07 PM

Challenging craft brewers from across Australia and New Zealand to create a unique beer or cider, the Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) – hitting Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland – showcases around 170 imaginative responses, often involving unusual ingredients. This year’s batch includes brews using snails, cognac barrels, bubble gum, loukoumades and durian fruit.

We spoke to two brewers, who rose to the challenge, channelling their heritage and travels.

For Andrew Georgiou of Fury & Son brewery in Melbourne’s north-western suburb of Keilor Park, that meant drawing on his Cypriot background. Andrew’s dad Reno, emigrated from Cyprus, ultimately meeting his wife Maria, also a Cypriot, here.

The dinner table was always laden with the likes of moussaka, souvlaki, gyro and Andrew’s favourite: haloumi. To wash that all down was his dad’s home-brewed beer. Eventually Andrew joined his dad, tinkering in the garage.

“Back then, the beers developed in Australia weren’t as diverse as they are now, so we brewed our own and that’s how Fury & Son started,” Andrew says.

A considerably bigger though still family-run outfit now, the father and son duo maintain the European way of doing business, with plenty of friendly banter.

"You get a big hit of cinnamon, then an undertone of honey."

For GABS, they put their heads together with head brewer Brenton Aylward and came up with the “Loukoumades Lager”, inspired by the Greek doughnuts they all love. “You get a big hit of cinnamon, then an undertone of honey, and a little bit under that, there are soft notes of vanilla. Once you peel back all the layers, there’s a nice little bit of nutmeg and some more honey on the nose,” says Andrew of the golden-hued brew. “It’s a bit left of centre, but still quite simple and crisp. It’s crazy and very humbling to be a part of GABS.”

Peter Denison, head brewer of Foreigner Brewing Co., has also chosen an unusual ingredient as the inspiration for his GABS creation. His family moved to Melbourne, when he was five and a half, from the then Czechoslovakia. He reconnected with his heritage on an exchange year in the Czech Republic during uni, and then back here in Australia went on to meet his business partner and fellow Czech-Australian Mira Koman.

A boilermaker, Koman built their Brunswick brewery. The pair’s shared passion for tinkering with traditional pilsners grew unexpectedly into a business, crafting beer that’s proudly unpasteurised, unfiltered and preservative-free.

"Our first reaction was, ‘Really? Are you joking? It’s going to be awful.’"

“If you’ve ever compared pasteurised orange juice to unpasteurised, you see the difference that heat treatment makes to the flavour, and it’s the same with beer,” Denison says. “The idea that filtering out the visible bits and pieces doesn’t affect flavour is also wrong.”

Despite he and Koman’s shared Czech heritage, the inspiration for their GABS beer hails from a little closer to home – South-East Asia. “Durian Durian” - the name of their beer - uses the infamously stinky fruit as its base, a fruit so stinky that it triggered a gas leak scare at RMIT university library in Melbourne, leading to the building's evacuation last month. It was inspired by production brewer Jim Taylor’s travels to the region. “He was curious about how it would work in a beer. Our first reaction was, ‘Really? Are you joking? It’s going to be awful.’”

"It’s relatively delicate, a little vegetal on the palette, then you start to get the actual fruit coming through.

Though the brewing process required wearing respirator masks, the end product, a saison-style made with Belgian yeast, is surprisingly enticing, Denison insists.

“There’s an initial whiff of leaking gas, but that quickly drops away. It’s relatively delicate, a little vegetal on the palette, then you start to get the actual fruit coming through. It’s also dry hopped, so it’s a balancing act between the hops and the durian.”

Denison says it’s exciting to try something a bit weird for GABS. “One of the things about brewing on a commercial scale is you lose some of the joys of home brewing, where you sit down with a friend over a weekend and try anything. As a business, you have to think what will sell well. Taking that out of the equation means GABS is a lot of fun.”

Great Australian Beer Spectapular festival

Melbourne, sold out

Sydney, 2 June (session 1 sold out already, only session 2 left)

Auckland, 30 June

Loukoumades image from Flickr (Gary Stevens).

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