We chat to Taiyo and Luke to find out all about it
Coming into its seventh year Newcastle Beer Fest has been bringing to the city a massive line up of NSW and Australia’s best craft brewers.See our handpicked guides to Newcastle
Keen to hear what’s planned for this year’s festival and just how far Beer Fest has come since its launch in 2014, we caught up with the festival head honchos, Luke Tilse from Apple Truck Cider & The Happy Wombat and Taiyo Namba from Nagisa & Susuru to find all.
Great to see that Beer Fest is back again this year on March 21, this is the seventh year, can you take us back to how it all started?
Luke: Originally it started out as a collaboration event for Honeysuckle, called the Boardwalk Beer Festival, it was a nice promo for all the venues in that area. I was working at the Dockyard at the time but when I started my own business here at The Happy Wombat I was thinking about running my own event, around the same time Taiyo asked if I wanted to do the beer festival again, and that’s how we formed the partnership.
Initially we held it at the boardwalk on Honeysuckle but it was a little tight on space, it could only hold about 900 people, so we moved to another location on the harbor for one year, which was great but the following year we had to move, at the last minute, because of licensing. It was about a month out from the festival when this happened so I was driving around town trying to find a new site and that’s when we found Camp Shortland, I then had to re-apply for the liquor license, that was a little stressful, luckily I managed to get it approved 3 days out.
Beer Fest seems to be getting bigger each year, how is the festival going?
Taiyo: Things are going good, it’s growing every year and we’re adding new elements all the time, it’s pretty much sold out every year since we started which is great.
Luke: We’ve got the most brewers that we’ve ever had this year, around 42.
What do you think the secret of your success has been?
Taiyo: We look after the brewers, they like what we do and enjoy coming, at the end of the festival we’ve had so many of them come up to us saying it’s the best festival they’ve attended and thank us.
Luke: It’s not necessarily a money-making event for the brewers, it’s a trade show to get their brand out there but the way we’ve structured the
event they can actually make a bit of money, which isn’t always the case with these types of events.
Lisa Hunt is back this year, she’s a crowd favourite isn’t she?
Taiyo: She is really good, Lisa gets the crowd going, gets them up on stage dancing around and having a good time, the music brings a real atmosphere to the event but it’s never been our focus, the beer for us is the main attraction, but the music is front and centre within the space so the crowd really gets involved which is great to see.
Organising festivals I imagine is a lot of work behind the scenes, what drives you to run NBF, given you’re both pretty busy guys with several businesses between the both of you?
Luke: They’re not easy and the first three or four years I think we made a loss, or just broke even. It’s really costly to put these events on, infrastructure alone costs around $35K, and then you’re like please don’t f&$king rain.
The main reason we started the festival was to support the indie beer movement, which has its own label now so when you go to the bottle shop you can see it displayed on all the indie produced beer, it’s the same concept as the Heart Foundation Tick on food.
Taiyo: We also find it really rewarding, it’s a great event and the fact that we’re organizing it and not contracting someone else to do it for us is a big thing.
Luke: We’re the ones you’ll find on the ground scanning people through the gate, running around with toilet paper and doing the toilet marshaling.
Sounds glamorous, do you actually get to enjoy the event?
Luke: Oh it’s really is like a cattle yard in there, you’ve gotta herd them in to keep those lines moving. To be honest, you don't really enjoy
it, it gets pretty crazy, there's always this peak period where everyone is packed in and I am like are we about to go down, is this it? But it's great
to see people enjoying themselves so much.
You must lose a fair bit of sleep in the lead up to the festival, especially with the weather being so unpredictable.
Taiyo: Touchwood over the years we’ve been pretty lucky.
Luke: Last year we had a lot of wind and at about 10 am the morning of I was walking around in full-on waterproof clothing, and I was going to call the event off cause it was getting dangerous. There were puddles all over the ground but because it’s mostly sand when the sun came out it pretty much all dried out and I was like… phew!
Food-wise this year, how does it work and who do you have lined up?
Luke: A food voucher is included in the ticket price so everyone gets fed.
Taiyo: The line up this year is Nagisa, Bao Brothers, Hawk Hero Street Food, Fritz Wieners, which is a food truck from Sydney and Mexican Cantina, so there’s a nice mix and there’s a few more to come.
Who are you most excited to see at the festival this year?
Luke: I am excited that Mountain Culture is coming, they’re a brand new brewery in the Blue Mountains. Cattle Yard Brewing is another one, they’re
local guys who are making real headways, and there’s quite a lot of local brewers like Shout Brewing, Rogue Traders, Grain Fed, Styx Brewing, Ironbark,
Hope Brewery, FogHorn and Murray’s, there’s around ten local breweries which is crazy, it will give the event a real local flavour.
Tickets for Newcastle Beer Fest are on sale now and are available to purchase click here.
Newcastle Beer Fest
Date: Saturday 21st March, 2020
Where: Camp Shortland, 80 Nobby's Rd, Newcastle Harbour
Time: 11am - 5pm
For more information about this year's event click here.