Organisers delighted with 30pc rise in attendance at the Ballarat Beer Festival

Taste buds were treated to the best of craft beer over the weekend at the second Ballarat Beer Festival that saw thousands of people descend on the City Oval.

Festival co-director Simon Coghlan said the day couldn’t have gone any better, with crowds far exceeding last year. 

“It was just absolutely fantastic, we had a brilliant well behaved crowd without any incidents with police,” he said.

“The crowd had such a great time, the music was great, there was a sense that it was a really easy-going event.”

Mr Coghlan said a lot more planning went into this year’s event, and it paid off with a 30 per cent increase in crowds from the 2012 instalment.

“Last year was our first year which exceeded our expectations, but this year we did try to improve things,” he said.

“You will be hard stretched to find anyone who didn’t have a good time.

“I’ve spoken to people out of town who think this is one of the best beer festivals in Australia.”

More than 40 brewers from as far as New Zealand and Tasmania lined the City Oval with a comprehensive selection of tastings on offer.

Overwhelmed by the positive feedback, Mr Coghlan said the festival was growing and helping mark Ballarat as a top craft beer destination in Australia. 

“An extensive event like this is putting Ballarat on the map, even after just two years. People are already talking about it,” he said.

“We had a really big contingent of visitors who knew about it just from word of mouth.”

With the popularity in craft beer continually growing and drinking pallets becoming more adventurous, Mr Coghlan said the festival was a great chance to showcase the change of drinking culture. 

“It’s about quality, which is one of the great things we’ve come to establish here,” Mr Coghlan said.

“Both big and small breweries have noted the change in drinking habits, with people happy to try different things.”

The impact the beer festival had on Ballarat was evident with the number of no vacancy signs across hotels in the region. 

Among other events this month, Mr Coghlan said for what has traditionally been a quiet month for tourism, the weekend was one of the highest occupancy weekends in Ballarat, helping boost tourism for the city.

“For events like this that bring in such large numbers of visitors to the town is such an economic boost,” he said.

Those who attended were all smiles, with many impressed by the organisation and extensive range of stalls. 

“It’s well organised with heaps of stalls, it’s impressive, they have done a great job,” Ballarat’s Olivia Hibberd said.

Port Fairy’s Brendan Fitzgibbon travelled to the beer festival for a second year and couldn’t fault the event.

“It’s a fantastic festival. It’s a bit more organised this year, last year they ran out of tickets and some people ran out of beer,” he said.

“The bands are great, the atmosphere is fantastic. It couldn’t get any better.”

With such a successful second year, Mr Coghlan said the Ballarat Beer Festival could become an annual event for the town.

“If we can manage the growth and keep offering new things it could be successful,” he said.

alicia.thomas@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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