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Hiker Brewing Co.

GABS Beer 2023 – Hold the Pork

We took a leap of faith and submitted our very own beer for this year’s Great Australian Beer Spectapular (GABS). For those unfamiliar with GABS, it’s Australia’s largest beer festival, held in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.

This Saturday, on June 10, the Brisbane event will take place, giving attendees the opportunity to savour our creation. GABS is renowned for its unconventional and eccentric beers, and ours certainly fits the bill. We lovingly named it “Hold the Pork,” a Sweet and Sour Rice Lager that actually tastes like Sweet and Sour Sauce!

But how did I come up with such a wild idea?

During the early stages of building our brewery, we connected with the Brisbane Amateur Beer Brewers (BABBS), a fantastic local homebrew club brimming with talented brewers. We tossed around the idea of hosting a BABBS for GABS mini-competition, with the winning weird or wacky beer being commercially produced as our entry.

Time slipped away, and for the year 2023, we decided to tap into the collective brainpower of BABBS. In December, during our Tap Takeover at Soapbox, we sat down with the BABBS crew to discuss what kind of beer we could create. Over a few pints and a flurry of ideas, we landed on the concept of using pineapple, as there was a surplus from a bumper crop.

We unanimously agreed to craft a Sweet and Sour Rice Lager!

From there, the BABBS team got to work developing a recipe. We drew inspiration from Liam’s previous brew, where he used glycerol to add sweetness to a chilly beer. Tony had also been experimenting with a rice lager of his own.

Liam and Tony undertaking bench Trial

Gathered at the brewery, armed with a medley of ingredients (including some sweet and sour pork), we embarked on bench trials to find the perfect balance of flavours. Our experimentation involved pineapple, Szechuan peppers, glycerol, lactic acid, and food colouring.

Fine-tuning the flavour profile was no easy task, but by the end of the day, we felt a surge of confidence and excitement about the end product. The lingering tingle from the Szechuan peppers was proof of our dedication.

To bring “Hold the Pork” to life, we needed to source 160kg of pineapple (which we later smoked), 5kg of Szechuan Peppers, 50 litres of glycerol, and the usual brewing ingredients like lactic acid.

Sourcing the pineapple turned out to be quite the adventure. Daniel and I headed to the local Rocklea markets one early morning. Our initial attempt to enter the markets was met with resistance, as we were redirected to the Administration Office to register as purchasers. However, the registration fee of $500 to be a purchaser seemed exorbitant.

Thankfully, the kind soul at the office understood our predicament. He suggested that we contact vendors to arrange delivery outside the market premises. We followed his advice and made countless calls until we found a vendor willing to sell us the pineapples. With the funds transferred, we anxiously waited at a nearby location for the precious cargo. After a nerve-wracking wait, the pineapples finally arrived.

Next came the challenge of smoking 160kg of pineapples. Fortunately, our friends at Bare Knuckles BBQ came to the rescue and lent us one of their smokers for the day. Crisis averted!

Finally, brew day arrived. While I set to work brewing the Rice Lager, the BABBS crew busied themselves with cutting and smoking the pineapples. It was a fun-filled day, with the wort flowing into the tank and several large garbage bins filled to the brim with smoked pineapple.

Throughout the fermentation process, we added the smoked pineapple and other ingredients, collaborating with the BABBS crew on multiple occasions to fine-tune the beer and achieve the desired outcome.

During the process, we had to transfer the beer from one uni-tank to another to minimise the pepper flavour imparted by the Szechuan peppers. As a side note, we mistakenly assumed we had removed most of the 160kg of pineapple. However, on another brewing day, while cleaning the tank, we discovered that it was still filled with pineapple. In a rush, we quickly kegged another tank for that day’s brew and proceeded to soak the initial tank in caustic solution to remove the remaining pineapple. Such are the challenges of scaling a homebrew recipe to a commercial scale!

The moment of truth arrived—the finished product. “Hold the Pork” truly embodied everything we had envisioned—an incredibly unique beer that perfectly encapsulated the essence of the GABS Festival. The beer received mixed reviews from those who attended GABS Melbourne and Sydney, which took place earlier.

Positive comments include:

“One of the top ten weirdest beers I’ve encountered at GABS!”

“My favourite beer at GABS! Cheers, guys 🍻”

“An incredibly unusual beer, packed with citric, peppery Szechuan spice. This is what I love about GABS!”

“How did I not know about Hiker Brewing before? I feel like Rick Sanchez savoring this delightful szechuan sauce of a beer. Smoked pineapple ✅ peppery body ✅ a slight hit of tomato acid juice ✅”

“Mind-blowingly spicy, tingly, sweet, and incredible! Perhaps my favorite at GABS! Happy times!”

On the other hand, some less enthusiastic comments were:

“Once the excessive sweetness fades, it’s alright, but it’s still cray cray…”

“Horrible stuff. Tastes like rinsing my mouth at the dentist.”

“I hate drinking this, but I love the aftertaste. My taste buds are so confused.”


Despite the mixed reactions, “Hold the Pork” made a lasting impression, evoking strong emotions and sparking countless conversations among beer enthusiasts. We couldn’t be prouder of our creation and the collaborative effort that brought it to life. Cheers to embracing the weird and wonderful world of beer!



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    June 5, 2023

    Is this beer gluten free?