By Max Weber.

Early-bird tickets for the 2014 Ballarat Beer Festival have gone on sale, with organisers tipping it to continue the upward growth that has seen it become one of the first fixtures on the calendars of beer-lovers.

With two hugely successful years tucked under its belt since it was launched in 2012, the Beer Festival is looking to continue expanding its audience and scope. Festival co-director Simon Coghlan told Beer&Brewer the 2013 festival had around 6,500 attendees, a number that should swell to “about 8,000” for the 2014 edition, with over half of the attendees travelling from outside Ballarat.

“There’s a lot of daytrippers that come up from Melbourne, and a lot of regional Victorians as well as interstate. It’s got a reputation as a very well-run event with great offerings.”

Coghlan said that Ballarat’s historic links with the beer industry in Australia, prompted their interest.

“We saw an opportunity to have a link between a city that has a really rich beer history and a growing demand for craft beer, and then tying that all together in an event-based tourism product.”

There will be “In the vicinity of 30” breweries showcased, ranging from Bridge Road Brewers, Kooinda and Holgate, to established favourites such as Matilda Bay and Little Creatures, totalling “well over 100” different beers, says Coghlan, who notes the festival has actually reduced the number of brewers in order to focus on “quality over quantity – we’re really happy with the list we’ve got this year.”

While most brewers showcase existing lines to a general audience, Coghlan indicates there may be some beers making their debut at the festival in 2014, “We have had conversations with a few of the brewers to try to do something exclusively for the festival”. Additionally the festival’s relationship with the University of Ballarat’s brewing program, which resulted in a limited-edition beer exclusively for the 2013 festival, will be returning for a second year.

The festival, which combines tastings and beer education with festival activities such as live music sets (this year headlined by Wagons) and a Kids Zone, demonstrates a desire to welcome a variety of groups, “we cater really well for families, but we also cater well for young people – it allows everyone to have a good time without impinging upon anyone else that’s there,” said Coghlan.

Indeed, educating those not religious about beer is one of the cornerstones of the festival. The educational marquee, one of last year’s great successes, offering sessions on everything from “women in the beer industry to food and beer matching” will again be expanded, said Coghlan.

“Last year the educational marquee was a great success, there were a lot of different sessions that people attended throughout the day, and we’ll be adding to that again this year.”

Coghlan, who operates the Golden City and Western Hotels in Ballarat, sums up the philosophy of the festival by saying “it’s about appreciation and learning as much as it is about having a drink, which is a really positive side of the festival”.

The Ballarat Beer Festival will be held from 11am on Saturday, the 18th of January 2014 at Ballarat City Oval. Early-bird tickets (and drink tokens) are on sale via Ticketek now.

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