Beer, cider and street food, oh my! The 12th Annual Ark Beer & Cider Fest is like an adult Disneyland, except replace the rides with beer and cider and swap out the Disney characters for full-bearded hipsters.
Upon arriving, we were given a festival pint glass and a long list of all the beers up for tasting. I asked quickly if there was a limit to how much we could try, which was answered with an even quicker “nope”. This could get dangerous.
The layout offered a large area with long tables for sitting in the middle, with all the tasting stands kept to the outer perimeter. There was a raised platform where a DJ positioned himself, spinning tunes and making the odd announcement. It was a very well laid out room.
With seemingly endless options, I all but flipped a coin over where to start! I decided to kick things off with a personal fave: The Sparkke Change Beverage Co.
An all-female owned and operated brewery, Sparkke is all about creating refreshing bevvies which pack a powerful political punch. With products named “Consent Doesn’t Come After You Do Apple Cider” and “Nipples Are Nipples Lemonade”, Sparkke shines a spotlight on social issues via clever branding. My personal fave is their Boundless Plains To Share Ginger Beer, which stands in support of asylum seekers. Not only does it project an important message, it’s also mega delicious! An unfiltered ginger beer with layers of earthy sweetness balanced by a bite of ginger spice. Super yum! Keep an eye on Sparkke over the next few weeks as they have a pretty big announcement dropping soon. Hint: they’re opening their own brew pub in the CBD. Okay, that wasn’t so much a hint as it was a spoiler. Still super exciting!
After drinking our fill at Sparkke, we shuffled a few steps over to Moon Dog, a brewery which knows how to brew bold beers! Moon Dog started over 7 years ago, dedicating their first 4-5 brewing big alcohol and self proclaimed “bat sh*t crazy beers.” While most breweries might start with mainstream flavours and branch out into experimental beers later down the track, Moon Dog broke from the status quo and did quite the opposite. Now they create your standard Pale Ales & Lagers (and delicious ones, at that), but their specialty is in brewing the unexpected!
I tried their Thunder Lips Yuzu Red IPA, a citrusy bitter beer with heaps of flavour and refreshing hops, as well as their Cake Hole Black Forest Stout. Or, as I like to call it, my newest obsession. A dessert beer with incredible notes of cherry and chocolate, I had a tough time not accepting a second sample. It’s a good thing I held off, because I grabbed a tasting of their Big Truffle In Little Porter Salted Truffle Porter before moving on, a rich brew with an aroma of vanilla and infused with Tasmanian black truffles. And when I say rich, I mean 9.6% kinda rich! When I said things could get dangerous, this was what I meant. And, while there were areas you could dispose of unfinished samples, this beer was just way too fantastic not to drink. So I finished every last drop and semi-stumbled to our next destination.
Seeking out a small break from beer, we headed over to Sidewood Cider. I heard that their Pear Cider had won World’s Best Pear Cider in 2017, so naturally I had to try it. All I’ll say is, if you haven’t tried Sidewood Cider yet, you seriously have to! Their recipe is made from nothing but pure Adelaide Hills fruit, which means there are zero additives. No added preservatives, no added sugar, no nothing, other than pure fruit deliciousness. It could be the most refreshing thing I’ve ever tasted and the pure fruit flavours were spectacular. I understand why they were voted best in the world, because they really are!
Just when I thought I’d reached my peak for flavour at the fest, we stumbled over Green Beacon Brewing. I mean actually stumbled… the tasting pours were generous!
Green Beacon is a brewery out of Brisbane, with brightly coloured cans to match their beers’ inviting disposition. I was told their 7 Bells Passionfruit Gose had won a gold medal, so obviously that was the beer I gravitated toward. Now, if you don’t like sour beers, this one might not be the brew for you. However, if you’re down to try something new, I strongly urge that you give it a sip. This beer legit tastes like you’re biting into a big, juicy passionfruit! So much so that I started to forget I was drinking beer and began to believe I was enjoying a fresh pressed juice. It was so damn good, I came back for a second tasting nearer to the end of the event. Though, rightfully so, they completely ran out of their gose long before the festival was finished. I’ll just have to hunt this one down in the wild.
Our last stop was to the charming Colony Cove from Kangaroo Island for some more cider. In particular, their Apple Sparkler, as I thought a non-alcoholic bevvie was in order by that point. Normally, when I drink an alcohol free apple cider, it kind of tastes like bubbly juice. Colony Cove have somehow created a zero alcohol version which tastes exactly like a regular apple cider! It’s so perfect for all my friends expecting little ones, or for when I want the taste of a refreshing cider without any of the not so fun side effects of alcohol.
By this point I was having way too much fun. Beer master classes were taking place around us, good music was floating about and we were surrounded by a room filled with fellow beer and cider lovers. Getting pretty hungry, Lee and I grabbed some of the street food offered and dug into onion rings, french fries and burgers to help soak up all our delicious beverages. Making sure there’s food in your stomach is important when you’re knocking back a few, as is staying hydrated and having proper transportation home. Luckily, the Ark Beer & Cider Fest offered eats, ample water and is super close to a bus stop. Responsibility and good times at its finest!
Whether you’re a beer or cider aficionado or if you’re still acquiring a taste for them, the Ark Beer & Cider Fest is a fantastic way one can try out different flavours or styles. The only problem you’ll face are the limits within your own stomach, because with so many fantastic vendors, it’s near impossible to try them all!
Guess I’ll just have to come back next year.
Words by Jamieson Eileen