It was all sunshine and sippin’ schooners in Ballarat this weekend, with a beer lover’s mecca returning to Lake Wendouree.
More than 40 breweries, cider producers and wineries set up shop at North Gardens on Saturday for the annual Ballarat Beer Festival.
Festival organiser Ric Dexter said there was “very little trouble, with a particularly laid back crowd” of around 3,500 revelers.
“The numbers were the same as last year, but they were a bit thirstier!” he said. “We had a bigger range of brewers … and the introduction of wineries was a huge winner.
“Interestingly, there were more females than males at the festival, and they were loving the sours and fruity beers.
“It was the first time lots of them have ventured so have a different beer, so we’ve got quite a few converts.”
Soul, funk and blues performers including Butterfunked and Christina Croft got the braver beer drinkers dancing, while others relaxed in the shade.
Ballarat's Dollar Bill Brewing head Ed Nolle said there had been plenty of interest in their aged and unusual offerings.
"People have been going for the sour beers, I think they're on the up and rising," he said. "Hopefully we'll get our cellar door open (this year) and we'll be able to show people what we do, where we do it."
Different tipples popular as drinkers look for diversity
While pilsners and pale ales were the picks of the day, an increasing number of Ballarat Beer Festival stalls were eschewing the frothy stuff for something fruitier.
The Mallow’s bar manager Matt Emms said hard lemonade and slushies had been “well received” as an alternative to afternoon ales.
“Everyone gets sick of drinking beer all day,” he said. “We like to put something different on. It’s just a great day out.”
According to IBISWorld, cider is bucking a national trend of reduced alcohol consumption, with the market growing an average 8.4 per cent annually since 2013.
Mathew Lowe, sales manager for Cheeky Rascal Ciders on the Mornington Peninsula, said he’d seen an explosion in the cider market “of around 750 per cent” when working in pubs around Europe.
“It’s a palate cleanser,” he said. “It’s gone from the commercial outfits, to now same as the beers, more craft and specialised ciders.
“People don’t want the plain and mass-produced, they want something exciting, and that’s what we’re hoping to provide."
Taltarni's Lara Bucknall said their wines were providing relief for the non-beer drinkers, and said it was "great we've got Ballarat beers, but also regional wines and beers, it's a fantastic event that attracts people from everywhere".