This year’s Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS) features 120 exclusive brews from breweries throughout the country, providing a snapshot of trending styles and flavours across the Australian beer scene.

With an audience of dedicated beer fans, GABS exclusive beers allow breweries to showcase their more unique creations. Beer & Brewer spoke to exhibiting breweries about some of the innovative flavours we will see during the festival, from strawberry lollipops to seaweed.

Australian natives

While Australian natives have been a prominent feature of local spirits, they are relatively new to beer. John Thomson, a GABS beer expert, explained the appeal of native ingredients in beer.

“Australian natives offer a chance for the brewer to innovate and showcase a beer that’s uniquely local and to promote environmentally sustainable practices. Our native flora’s unique flavours are the big drawcard, which any of us that have tried the likes of wattleseed, lemon myrtle, or finger lime can attest to,” he said.

Craft beer consumers frequently seek out products that speak to their place of origin, and native ingredients are a useful way to convey that connection. Clifton Hill Brewing’s Head Brewer Jake Schroeder  explained that this is part of the appeal of the Honey Gum IPA.

“The opportunity to brew something different using some locally sourced ingredients from Victoria provides us the opportunity to connect with those local suppliers, to tell a story and give the beer a background which the consumers may be able to relate to,” he said.

For Beau Curtis, Founder and Brewer at The Social Brewers, who is exhibiting the ooray (Davidson) plum-infused Ooray for Gilbert, utilising natives in beer requires a different approach than what he currently sees in the industry.

“Some of the Indigenous flavours are quite subtle, and the culture of craft beer has been to smash people in the face with flavour. We spent a decade making massive IBU IPAs and suck-your-face-off sours. Now it’s all about packing as much haze and hop flavour as humanly possible into a hazy. I’d love for us, both brewers and consumers, to make space for beers which embrace subtlety, and that’s where I think beers with these ingredients might have a place,” he said.

While some distilleries are talking about a native botanical fatigue in the market, this seems less likely for beer.

“While it is possible, I think beer is safe for now. With botanicals not an essential brewing ingredient and the frequency of application low, they are still a novelty with plenty of innovation to come. If you think of the many variables in brewing and actual beer styles, the possibilities are almost endless,” Thomson said.

Newstead Brewing Co demonstrated this experimentation with its GABS exclusive brew, infusing Ironbark eucalyptus wood in the Double Westie style Two Thumbs Toasted Ironbark. Founder Mark Howes described the final flavours in the beer.

“We just had to make sure that, a: it was safe, and b: we didn’t get eucalyptus flavour, because that is pretty polarising. We wanted wood, spicey, piney, citrus like flavours with that classic texture of being barrel aged. We are beyond stoked with the result. It’s balanced and integrated with the Double Westie, it has a definite chewy texture, with spicey and toasted wood flavours and a touch of citrus and menthol.”


Nostalgia has been a prominent trend across the entire hospitality industry, from venue décor to cocktail recipes to restaurant menus, and this still rings true at GABS with beers like Working Title Brew Co’s Sucker Punch Strawberries & Cream Lollipop Sour and Ramblers Ale Works’ Honey Honey Joy Joy.

According to Thomson, nostalgic flavours provide an easy escape from the pressures of the modern world and can have a powerful emotional appeal for the consumer.

“There is an underlying and reassuring authenticity that’s brought up with exposure to brand or industry heritage and nostalgia which offers a refreshing refuge in our ever-increasing digital world. Something from the past that’s familiar, simpler, and proven offers a strong and grounded connection which has big cut-through and can be reassuring, especially within uncertain economic times,” he said.

There is often an overlap between sweet and nostalgic flavours. Dessert flavours have existed in beer for some time, and the beer selection at this year’s GABS indicates that the trend continues to be popular.

In the opinion of Brewmanity’s Claire Harwood, these flavours surprise and engage consumers.

“Dessert beers aren’t something we regularly do, but GABS offers us a great opportunity for us to push the boundaries a little when we make our GABS beer. For us it’s an opportunity to find a novel way to get the wow factor from customers. It might be that dessert beers can evoke a sense of nostalgia, or that they play on unexpected flavour combinations, but for the most part it’s a bit of fun and we think craft beer drinkers like to explore and discuss them. The surprise and delight factor might just get a non-craft drinker interested in the craft beer world too, so if that’s the case, it’s a pretty great outcome,” she said.

For Ben Cummins of Ramblers Ale Works, appealing to nostalgia goes beyond the taste of a beer, and provides an opportunity for breweries to engage a new market.

“Sweeter beers similarly encompassed a greater range of consumers that is a valuable market in a competitive industry. Nostalgic beers are a little different. I don’t think they offer a market on their own, but like all things craft beer, they offer a more in-depth drinking experience,” he said.

“Incorporating sight alongside taste, touch and smell in the drinking experience is an important tool for any quality brewer. But it’s not the only tool. Memory can also impact beer by invoking very real, physical changes and emotion in the consumer.”


Savoury flavours are used in several beer styles, but Thomson is seeing an increase the number and diversity of savoury beers on the market.

“With traditional use of salt in gose and smoke in rauchbier, spices and herbs have also been used over time. Increased innovation and brewing capability within modern craft beer has also led to further experimentation of savoury flavours. Whereas in the past it may have been just smoke or salt, now it’s a Smoked Macadamia Stout or Six String Brewing’s Spaghetti Saison.” 

Savoury beers also pair well with food, at a time when consumers are becoming more interested in food pairings.

“Obviously, there is uniqueness and marketing cut-through calling out your ‘Spaghetti Beer’ and a fair bit of consumer anticipation created. There’s also a sophisticated opportunity to take your beer drinker on a deeper sensory dive exploring complexity around aroma, taste, and mouthfeel,” Thomson added.

Two Bays Brewing is exhibiting Wakame Up Before You Gose, which utilises Wakame seaweed harvested by Southern Sea Greens. Nathan Alfrey, Two Bays Marketing Manager, explained why the brewery opted for a gose style for the beer.

“Gose beers pair incredibly well with a lot of different foods. They are slightly sour and the herbal coriander notes refresh the pallet after every sip, with a cooling effect for spicy dishes, and a cleansing citrusy tartness to cut through fatty foods like lamb, pulled pork or brisket. The touch of salt gives the beer more body and fuller mouth feel and can offset sweet desserts as well. Hops are kept to a minimum so there’s no big bold aromas or punchy hop flavours to compete with the food on your plate. They are true all-rounders when you get the balance right,” he said.

Several beers at GABS include spice and chili. Head Brewer at Molly Rose, Nic Sandry, said that food was an inspiration for Pepper Pepper Pepper, which includes habanero, Szechuan pepper, and horseradish concentrate.

“Spicy food pairs so well with all sorts of beers which makes you think about all of the amazing combinations of chilli, pepper and other spices that could add both punchiness and nuance in beers. It’s really exciting to investigate how the different forms and varieties of spicy botanicals can be added creatively to beer,” he said.

However, balance is important for a chilli beer, as Escape Brewing’s Russell Matthews found with Escape the Heat.

“Balance is always a challenge in any beer, especially with a Belgian, which tends to be more yeast than malt or hop driven. The aim with this one was to provide little initial heat, however to find it warms the palate incrementally as the beer is consumed,” he said.

Another popular savoury element in beer is that of smoke, both in a traditional rauchbier, and in newer applications, as with the Cavalier Brewing Smoke Rings kettle sour. Cavalier’s Jason Burton explained that, while polarising, smoke can enhance and add to the flavours of a beer.

“Smoke in beer just adds another dimension to the overall tasting experience and, like smell, it can be incredibly evocative. It’s umami, it triggers flavour nodes on the palate and can enhance other flavours, such as in our GABS beer this year: we’ve used the smoke to enrich the flavour of the fruit. It can be a polarising flavour, though. You either love it or hate it. Nonetheless, it’s fun to experiment with, and I think everyone that sees smoke in beer just has to try it, like it or not,” he said.

While the trends we are seeing at GABS may not make as much impact on the beer scene as the craze for hazies or the growing popularity of craft lagers, we can expect these flavours to continue to crop up in limited releases and brewery exclusives, presenting new opportunities to excite and engage consumer tastebuds.

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