Sydney Beer Week to return

Sydney Beer Week is set to return next year with new owners announcing plans to resurrect the event after a six-year hiatus with a focus on hospitality venues.

Peter Anstey, General Manager of Sydney’s Hotel Sweeneys, and Josh Quantrill, National Channel Manager at 4 Pines, have acquired the festival from former owner Dave Phillips, who last ran the event in 2018 before cancelling the event in 2019 citing a lack of sponsorship.

In a statement announcing the event, Anstey said it was time for the event’s return.

“With Melbourne having Good Beer Week, it struck me that Sydney needed to reawaken,” he said.

“We needed to celebrate our venues, our customers, and our amazing breweries.

“Australia now boasts excellent breweries and beers, and we should be out there supporting our industry and the people who dedicate their lives to providing us with some of the best beer and venues that give us some of the best times of our lives.”

Few details are yet available for the event, to be held on as yet unspecified dates in October next year. However, Peter Anstey says it will be about providing an experience to encourage people to get out to hospitality venues.

“It’s about the experience, it’s about coming out,” he said. “It’s about not necessarily drinking something that’s highly hopped, it’s about options.”

Quantrill said that he felt the market had lost something with the absence of events like this.

“When I entered the market, when I first started drinking beer, there was a beer event on every week,” he said.

“There was a brewer somewhere, there was a pub somewhere, doing something which allowed you a little bit less of a buy-in to be able to go along and learn and experience just by being there.”

He said the beer events would give consumers, especially younger drinkers, a ‘permission point’ to enter the beer market.

Anstey said with just the two partners running it, the event would be ‘smaller and more concise’.

“It’s just me and Josh. It’s not a big team,” he said.

“But we’re lucky we’ve got an amazing industry around us to support us and help us.

“It’s gonna be a lot more of a spread out event across the 10 days to ensure there’s not massive saturation points in some parts, and then nothing on in others.

“Our intent is to bring trade into town, so they have the opportunity to mingle and chat because at the GABS dinner at the Convention Centre it was clear that trade wants to get together, they want to talk, they want to chat, they don’t want to sit down dinner, they just want to get together. ”

“We feel like the industry is definitely ready to start doing something in Sydney, and we have some great people in our industry.”

He observed that breweries such as Mountain Culture didn’t even exist when the event was last staged.

“So we’ve got some great new entrants into the industry.”

Anstey said the event would focus on Sydney venues, with breweries working with pubs for events.

“The events will need to be held in hospitality venues,” he said.

“We’re very clear that we all know that the breweries are creating great beer and have got great spaces. But the real issue is getting it in the hands of the consumer.

“So the intent is that breweries would approach venues to try and get consumers back in the pubs.”

With a stated focus on hospitality venues, Brews News asked whether that meant brewers had to align with pubs.

Quantrill said the intent was to bring “brewers and hospitality professionals together to create an incredible experience.”

“How that experience comes across, the best way for that to happen, is one we’re totally open to.

“But the larger plan is to bring people to create the best experiences; it’s their livelihood, it’s their skill set, it’s everything they do, which is hospitality and then to be supported by their fantastic suppliers of liquid, which is where breweries come in.”

He said that the event was looking to include restaurants and cocktail bars as well as pubs.

“Anyone that is keen to bring a really good experience to the consumer and getting more people to drink more great beer.”

He said tap rooms would be eligible if the event proposed “was in line with the ethos of the event and what it was trying to bring to Sydney”.

“There’s also some fantastic hospitality professionals within taprooms and if there’s a great experience that they’re bringing, together with, with a great supplier as well, then that’s fantastic.”

Following the announcement of the news Brews News spoke to several Sydney-based brewers to ascertain their thoughts on the revitalised event. None wished to be quoted, though all were broadly supportive of the move, if cautious based on previous experiences.

A common observation was that Sydney consumers are very different to Melbourne, who drive that city’s Good Beer Week attendances.

“I don’t know why that is, ” one brewer observed. “But they are.”

“Last time brewers often outnumbered consumers at events.”

“People don’t turn up for tap takeovers anymore, and ‘meet the brewer’ doesn’t really mean anything anymore in my experience,” another brewer said.

“My biggest question is what will be different about this event that will get people out?”

Josh Quantrill said that was the kind of feedback that he wanted to hear from previous participants to develop the plan for next year’s event.

Sydney Beer Week was first run in 2011. The new owners succeed Dave’s Brewer Tours founder, Dave Phillips, who in turn acquired the rights to the festival from the former owners in 2016, relaunching the event in 2017.

The move to reinvigorate Sydney Beer Week comes against a backdrop of similar events globally facing declining attendance and cancellations amidst questions about their relevance in a more mature beer market.

This trend predates COVID, with Brews News hosting a panel discussion during the 2018 Sydney Beer Week posing the question of whether beer weeks have had their day, and examining what consumers and brewers want from such events.

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