GABS Acquire More Festivals

July 21, 2023, by Will Ziebell

GABS Acquire More Festivals

The team behind GABS Festival has bought a number of long-established regional beer and wine festivals from the Schwartz Family Company.

The move sees SpecTAPular Enterprise's events portfolio expand to include the Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival, the Hunter Valley Wine & Beer Festival, and Gold Coast Beer & Cider Festival. They also intend to launch a new event in Sydney later this year. 

Speaking to The Crafty Pint, GABS managing director Mike Bray (pictured above right with Jerry Schwartz), said they always planned to run further events throughout the calendar year. While GABS takes ten months to run and operate, he says their team and infrastructure is ready to be utilised at other times of the year. 

"It was always part of that initial strategy to introduce a second season that either complemented or didn't compete with GABS," Mike told The Crafty Pint. 

"When we acquired GABS, one of the most attractive things was that you had a world-class events team and a warehouse full of infrastructure that was pretty much getting used just six weeks of the year."

Following their COVID-impacted GABS Summer Tour series in 2021, they started looking at other events already on the festival calendar.

"GABS is and always will be our flagship product that we'll continue to polish, grow and enhance as one of the best beer festivals in the world," Mike says.

"We decided that instead of starting something ground up, it would be a fantastic opportunity to be able to work with established existing events in the space."

The Canberra festival, in particular, is one of the country's most long-established beer events, launched back in 2008, three years before the first GABS took place at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda. 

Mike also sees these acquisitions as a chance to change the shareholding of the business; the group that purchased the festival and Hottest 100 poll from founders Steve Jeffares and Guy Greenstone in 2019 was made up of a small group of families and mates. 

"We literally banded our savings together to buy the events business in 2019 and that was just before COVID," Mike says, "and it all came to a grinding halt.

"The existing shareholders poured money into keeping one of the world's best craft beer experiences alive, including borrowing from banks and taking second mortgages. We did that because we believe Australia deserves a series of events that celebrates such an amazing industry."

This acquisition sees Mike increase his shareholding in SpecTAPular Enterprises with Jerry Schwartz also taking a stake and a position on the board.

"He has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry; he runs world-class hotels and knows all about delivering a world-class experience," Mike says. "He understands the investment that goes into a long-term vision so we have such a strong alignment in delivering experiences." 

The Schwartz Family Company owns Sydney Brewery and a range of hotels in Australia, including Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, The Victoria Melbourne, Hilton Surfers Paradise and the Mercure Hotel Canberra, home to the Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival. However, Jerry Schwartz's stake in SpecTAPular Enterprises is in a personal capacity; in a media release, he said he were delighted to be incorporating their events with GABS. 

“It is a fantastic platform which will help take these events to new heights over the next ten years and beyond," he said.

"We’re also looking to introduce some new premium events and products, the first being Finer Drop, as we continue to grow and provide consumers and exhibitors with more world class experiences.”

In November, SpecTAPular Enterprises will host the first Finer Drop in the Winx Stand at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. Mike says it's something they conceptualised back in 2020 with beer, wine and spirits all be a part of the offering. 

"It's a premium experience, with high-quality products from drinks and a few artisan food experiences, with some great colourful entertainment, to complement that," he says.

The full media release is below.

If you're a brewer looking to take part in the GABS Craft Beer Can Design Awards this year, then here is everything you need to know about entering. 

SpecTAPular acquires regional beer and wine festivals and introduces new “Finer Drop” event.


Spectapular Enterprises, the holding company behind one of Australia’s most loved craft beer festival series, the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS), has acquired some of the country’s most established and well-respected regional beer and wine events from Schwartz Family Company (SFC).

In what has been described as a very exciting day for both businesses, Spectapular will now be able to offer craft beer lovers year-round options and introduce its much anticipated ‘Finer Drop’ events to the market whilst providing the perfect platform for the Schwartz Family Company events to grow.

The company has always shown ambitions to extend its exceptional craft beer consumer experiences into regional areas, as it indicated with the Covid-impacted “GABS Summer Tour” in 2021.  The introduction of the SFC events and team will allow Spectapular an immediate opportunity to fulfil these ambitions, whilst also expanding its event portfolio.

The transaction also sees Jerry Schwartz take up a board appointment and partnership equity in Spectapular Enterprises. Schwartz is the head of the largest private owned hotel group in Australia with some iconic hotels in his 14-property portfolio, including the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, The Victoria Melbourne, Hilton Surfers Paradise, Mercure Hotel Canberra and Rydges Resort Hunter Valley.

“I am really delighted about incorporating our Canberra and Hunter Valley events – each with more than a decade of history – into the Spectapular calendar,” said Dr Schwartz.

“It is a fantastic platform which will help take these events to new heights over the next ten years and beyond. We’re also looking to introduce some new premium events and products, the first being Finer Drop, as we continue to grow and provide consumers and exhibitors with more worldclass experiences.” said Schwartz

Spectapular’s portfolio will now include the Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival, the Hunter Valley Wine & Beer Festival and Gold Coast Beer & Cider Festival.

Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival was first held in the nation’s capital in 2008. The venue at the Dr Schwartz-owned heritage Mercure Canberra attracts some of the biggest names in brewing to a relaxed, family-friendly day celebrating everything that craft beer has to offer.

The Hunter Valley Wine & Beer Festival has also been staged for over a decade, held annually in the grounds of SFC’s Rydges Resort Hunter Valley. With over 50 of the Hunter Valley’s best wine, beer and food producers, attendees are treated to a stunning Hunter Valley experience which also includes live music, is family-friendly and provides an important platform to raise funds for local community services.

The new Gold Coast Beer & Cider Festival which, due to a clash in dates, was put on hold whilst negotiations between the parties were being finalised. The event will return in a revised format.

The Finer Drop, a new premium experience for today’s discerning consumer, launches this November at the stunning Winx Stand at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. It is set to be a showcase of elegance, sophistication and unparalleled indulgence as Spectapular curate an extraordinary event filled with exceptional beverages, gourmet cuisines, fashion and live entertainment!

Mike Bray, Managing Director of GABS, will also increase his equity in Spectapular, commented: “The partnership with Jerry is a natural fit on all levels. He brings a wealth of experience in providing local and international guests exceptional experiences every day. I see huge potential to build on the incredible work the SFC team have done with the Canberra Beer & Cider Festival and Hunter Valley Wine & Beer Festival over the years.”

Spectapular’s flagship event, GABS Festival, is internationally recognised as being one of the best beer festivals in the world. The festival brings together some of the most exciting craft breweries from Australia, New Zealand and across the globe to create memorable experiences for consumers, whether they are just starting out on their craft beer journey, or already the most fervent fan. The cornerstone of the event is the 120 unique beers brewed exclusively for the event by 120 different breweries! These are often some of the most exciting releases on a brew teams’ annual calendar and the perfect opportunity for brewers to showcase their immense talents in quality, creativity and a diversity of styles that no one thought was possible with beer!

For attendees, GABS has often been referred to as being like Disneyland for beer lovers. Not only are they spoilt for choice on what to try but they also get the opportunity to meet the great people behind their favourite beers at their incredible looking exhibitor bars. One can spend the day entertained with fun activities ranging from tinnie riding to tinnie hurling and every game show activation in between or simply dance the session away at the renowned GABS silent disco. This year, over 40,000 patrons attended the events, with the attendance record for the biggest single session in GABS history being broken.

Spectapular Enterprises also produces the immensely popular industry people’s choice awards in the GABS Hottest 100, where Aussie beer lovers, including prime minister Anthony Albanese, get to vote for their five favourite beers of the year and the GABS Can Design Awards where the super talented artists have turned the outside of the tinnie into some of the best street art in the country!

“We’re very proud to be playing our part to be providing platforms that celebrate the incredible breweries in our industry as we look to enhance consumer’s love of craft beer by providing exceptional event experiences and people’s choice campaigns!” – Mike Bray, GABS Festival.

The GABS Can Design Awards 2023 are open for submissions – details here.

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