8 September 2023

Illawarra brewers to boast popular craft beer creations at local festival planned for Bulli

| Keeli Royle
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Michael Stagni at Coledale Wines Craft Beer section.

Michael Stagni is ramping up this year’s Craft Beer Festival with more vendors to cater for everybody. Photo: Keeli Royle.

Illawarra brewers will showcase their best craft beers alongside some of the most popular creations from across the country at a local festival designed for the whole family.

Coledale Wines owner Michael Stagni has worked in the industry for decades and said he’s seen a massive increase in the demand for craft beers in the region.

“Craft beer sales in my store are much more than Tooheys and Carlton put together,” Michael said.

“I think people are sick of drinking ordinary beer, they want something a bit new.”

After hosting wine-tasting events in the past, Michael decided to trial the craft beer festival at Scarborough Wombarra Bowling Club last year, where hundreds braced the rain for their favourite beer.

“Last year’s festival was a success in terms of numbers but it was a drizzly, horrible, awful day,” Michael said. “Everyone was walking around with umbrellas.”

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This year he’s ramping up the event to be even bigger at Bulli showground, and making sure there’s something for everyone, not just the beer drinkers.

“We’ve got music, we’ve got food trucks, we’ve got 32 suppliers and that’s mainly craft beer but there are some wines, gin, vodka and other spirits with South Coast Distillery and Headlands Distillery also taking part.”

“It should be a nice fun event, kids are welcome, if it rains it doesn’t matter… but it won’t.”

And while the event will attract brewers from right across the country, it also highlights the incredible businesses we have close to home.

“You’ve got to look at what’s popular and one priority is also looking after the local suppliers, people like Principle, Five Barrels, Seeker, Resin – we look after them because they’re local.”

“They’re all very good, they all stack up well.”

Principle Brewing director David Mason said events like this are an excellent opportunity for local and national brewers to unite and showcase their products.

“Festivals are what holds this sort of industry together and gets us all working together and united to put on a cool event and to embrace the product that we’re super proud of,” he said.

Principle Brewing Director David Mason with cans of beer.

Principle Brewing will be showcased at the upcoming craft beer festival. Photo: Supplied.

He said while craft beers are growing in popularity, one of the biggest challenges is still just encouraging people to try them and get rid of their preconceived ideas.

“You get it all the time through here, where you have guys that have tried their mate’s home brew and it sucks and they come in here like ‘I don’t really like craft beer’ but they haven’t actually tried craft beer.”

But at the festival, suppliers are making sure that it’s not just the staples that will be on offer.

“Generally you only get to take up around four beers because you’re set up in a marquee and at the local ones I tend to take a few more weird beers because a lot of people in Wollongong have tried our core range and know what it tastes like.”

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Just like the event, the strong brewing community in the Illawarra is supported by local bottle shops like Coledale Wines, who help distribute products out to the community.

“Without a lot of shops like that, this product doesn’t get into people’s fridges, we can only reach so far,” David said. “So as soon as we opened up, as soon as we had products in cans those guys took us on straight away, basically without even trying a product they were happy to and since then they’ve pumped through a good amount of stock.”

He said that by customers using small local sellers like Coledale, Bellambi, Thirroul, Cringila, Good Drop, Yakka and Crown West Cellars rather than big businesses, they can greater support the region’s brewers and the community in general.

“They push your product on their socials, they love your product and they love the fact it’s local and they’re part of a local community around that.”

“They’re like an extension of our business,” he said. “Without them, we’re cooked.”

The Craft Beer Market Festival is on Sunday 29 October. To buy tickets, visit the event website.

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