Long gone are the days of having a limited choice of a handful of familiar national branded beers at your local pub or liquor outlet.

The past 10 years has seen an emerging culture in the beer brewing industry, where beer enthusiasts have taken the home brewing theme to an entirely new level by setting up their own micro-breweries, some of them offering brew your own beer as an option, many offering food to go with their artisan range of beers, and some nano-breweries attached to your local pub.

Micro-brewers have allowed their imagination to run wild, experimenting with ingredients beyond the standard hops, malt and yeast to include coffee beans, cocoa, orange peel etc in the ferment that create diversity of flavour experience on the palette. The result is not only extraordinary, but has captured the imagination of died in the wool beer lovers (affectionately known as beer nerds), and won many over who may not have been beer drinkers before (like the author).

Like avid winemakers who have long travelled to Europe to experience the tradition of vintage and winemaking techniques, craft brewers have made their pilgrimage to other shores to study the art of brewing Belgian style ales, American IPA’s, English and Irish Lagers and Ales, German Pilsners and French Saisons.

Craft beer’s renaissance has evolved to the point that Melbourne’s Good Beer Week, and Sydney’s Craft Beer Week have not only placed the craft brewing industry in the spotlight, but led the restaurant industry to acknowledge that the complexity of beer flavours can be just as nuanced as wine, and provides an interesting interaction in food matching combinations for the connoisseur.

A similar scenario applies with the emergence of a growing range of Victorian and Tasmanian apple or pear cider makers. Long the bastion of traditional English cider makers, local cider makers like Kelly Brothers in Melbourne’s east have been at their craft for many years, but now a growth in consumer demand has seen many new styles appear, ranging from dry to sweet to meet demand.

Inspired by this ground swell of interest in the burgeoning range of craft beers and ciders, a seed of thought was germinated over a year ago to hold a festival event in Melbourne to showcase local artisans to celebrate all that is good about our local industry.

The inaugural Great Southern Beer & Cider Festival™, to be held at the Yarra Glen Racecourse on Friday September 30, is an exciting festival that is sure to delight beer and cider enthusiasts, as well as young families alike.

In the beautiful surrounds of the Yarra Valley, this one-day only event showcases a variety of local craft beers and ciders. Come along and enjoy old favourites and sample new taste sensations.

Complementing the diverse range of beers and ciders is an exclusive variety of gourmet-style Street Food from selected food vendors.

Event-goers can also enjoy a great live music line-up on stage with talented local musicians and bands, including The Three Kings (winner of 'Blues Album of the Year' at the Music Victoria Awards).

For the kids, there will be lots of activities and entertainment, including a massive playground and face painting. Given it is AFL Grand Final Eve, kids are also invited to take part in an official AFL Footy Clinic and dress in their favourite AFL footy team colours.

Free parking will be available onsite or patrons can avail of complimentary bus travel between Lilydale station and the event throughout the day.

Entry tickets are priced $20pp. Tasting tokens (in booklets of 10) will be on sale for $20pp. Children under 15 will receive free entry when accompanied by an adult.

A special Beer & Cider Combo ticket is available for pre-purchase online for $35. This includes entry and 10 tasting tokens (valued at $40).

To take advantage of these special offers, please visit www.greatsouthernfestival.com.au

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