LIKE many people last year, Andrew Drayton often found himself sitting around the backyard fire pit passing the quiet nights of COVID lockdown.
The IronBark Hill Brewhouse head brewer would toast marshmallows to make s'mores, a popular dessert in US and Canada made by squashing roasted marshmallows and chocolate between sweetened crackers.
Months later when Drayton, his wife and IronBark Hill marketing manager Hayley Drayton and fellow brewer James Horne were brainstorming ideas for innovative beers to enter in the GABS festival, their minds harked back to nights around the fire.
"The gist of what GABS festival beers are is they're a little bit out there," Drayton says. "Something that you normally wouldn't brew on a regular basis."
So Drayton and his team at the Pokolbin brewery decided to make a s'more-flavoured beer, called That's A S'more.
GABS (Great Australasian Beer Spectapular) is the southern hemisphere's largest craft beer festival and provides brewers with the opportunity to compete against their peers with beers that have never been tasted outside the competition.
The 10th edition of the GABS will be held at Sydney Showground on May 7 and 8. There are 120 beers and ciders entered in this year's awards including a record six from the Hunter, the Central Coast and Great Lakes in Six Strings Brewing Co's (Erina) Creme Brlée Stout, Bay Road Brewing's (Gosford) Tropical Rum NEIPA, Hope Estate's (Pokolbin) Single Hop TIPA - Oat Cream IPA, Coastal Brewing Co's (Forster) Rainbow Flat White Stout and IronBark Hill's That's A S'more.
Working out how to make a s'more beer was an experiment in itself. The beer has been brewed previously in the US, but never at a commercial level in Australia.
Drayton trialled cooking a small batch of white marshmallows in a pizza oven, and once that was successful, 10 kilograms of the fluffy confectionery were roasted and added to the beer during the boil.
"All the sugars from the marshmallows dissolved into the beer and the flavour remained," Drayton says.
The trademark sweet graham cracker used in s'more in the US couldn't be sourced in large enough quantities, so it was made in-house by IronBark Hill's chef Julian White.
"We crunched them [the crackers] up and put them in the mash at the start of the brew, as well as the rest of our malts," he says.
"It gave it that flavour; a bit of honey and cinnamon as it's a unique kind of biscuit you can't get in Australia."
So after all that, most importantly, how does it taste?
"It's got more of the marshmallows on the notes, on the aroma side," Drayton says. "Then you've got a bit of biscuit. Not so much sweetness on the taste itself, it's more the sweet chocolate stout and roasted flavour."
The s'more beer will be available at IronBark Hill Brewhouse for a limited time following the GABS festival.
While it will be IronBark Hill's debut at GABS, Hope Estate will be making their third entry with their Oat Cream IPA.
Hope's previous entries were an 18 per cent "quadruple" Rhino IPA and a fruited Berliner Weisse, Sunny Boy Super Sour.
Oat cream IPAs are growing in popularity, and owner Michael Hope, a renown vigneron, was turned onto the idea from his 26-year-old son Jonno.
"I thought he said 'oak'," Hope says. "So I said, 'does it go in barrels?' And he said, 'not oak, oat'. I'd never heard of it."
A combination of malted and rolled oats, like in breakfast cereal, are added to the beer, along with lactose.
"The whole idea is to give it that nice creamy rich character," Hope says.
Last week Hope Estate released a seven per cent oat cream IPA at their cellar door using regular hops, but for their GABS entry brewer Henry Harman used a single American hop, called Idaho 7.
That gives the beer a head-kicking potency of 11 per cent and an unique flavour of mandarin and tangerine characters.
Hope says it's the first time the Idaho 7 hop has been used in an oat cream IPA by commercial brewers in Australia.
"The whole idea of using a single hop is to showcase the unique characters of that hop," he says. "Instead of mixing it with a few hops where you might get a combination of the characters.
"We've been fooling around with single hop beers for a few years and we've found it's really interesting to see the characters of the hop on their own without mixing them. It's a really good way to learn about the hops."
Hope Estate boasts around 60 beers at their cellar door and Single Hop TIPA - Oat Cream IPA is likely to join the tap rotation following GABS.
GABS Festival takes place at Sydney Showground on May 7-8. Visit for www.gabsfestival.com for more details.