Brisbane - no joke - may be the world's ugliest city (de Botton et al. 2014). But, in spite of its pimply, eternal adolescence, its people are capable of throwing one hulluva beer festival. Driven by the local beer-swilling community, Brewsvegas has delivered the city a dynamic, if not slightly inebriated edge.
Having sampled the fruits of Brewsvegas in the first half of the week – and while Judd was thoroughly enjoying himself on the best of Feral Brewing Company’s beer at Bosc – I took a break from the schedule to see lauded Brisbane author David Malouf read from his new book of poetry. Seeing a Brisbane treasure speak, during the revelry and fizz of Brewsvegas, reminded me of the narrative of Malouf’s quintessential book about growing up in the River City – Johnno.
Despite its flourishing craft-beer and indeed broader cultural scene, Brisbane is still trying to reconcile its less-than-glam history with its desire to be taken seriously. Much like the struggles of Dante – the protagonist of Johnno – with the city he grew up in, Brisbane has wrestled with its own backwater past. Everyone knows this was a one-beer town, and many of today’s beer enthusiasts would themselves have grown up on a liquid diet of XXXX Bitter.
However, in spite of itself – as Dante learns in the book – Brisbane’s faults, ugliness and, most of all, its people are what illuminates the city. With its foundation firmly fixed as a grass roots festival, the palpable energy of Brewsvegas felt like Brisbane’s dwellers had stumbled upon the same realisation as Dante.
There's much to be said about a city where you can find the likes of Bacchus – a brewery that knows no bounds – in the suburban nightmare of discount tile outlets and fast food joints that is Capalaba*. Snickers beer. Crayfish beer. Pumpkin pie beer. Seemingly infinite creativity, and all despite its surroundings. There's no Harbour Bridge or covert laneways to muse over in Capalaba - just imaginative, interesting people.
It's testament to Brisbane's unique community mindedness that brewers, bars (and even bloggers!), competing for the same slice of the pie, can band together in the name of beer and the city. I mean, the Tippler's vs. Scratch shenanigans - shouldn’t these guys be tearing at each other's throats?
Now it could very well have been the beer but, even as a lowly enthusiast, I felt as though I was sharing in a wider, broader movement. In the quest to get good beer wherever you go, Brewsvegas has taken us one step closer, and the best part is that Brisbane's done it from the inside, out.
*I grew up in Capalaba and I feel this entitles me to be a sanctimonious little prick.