Ten craft beer exhibitors added extra froth to this year's Hunter Valley Wine and Beer Festival, with beer and cider tastings added to the previously wine-focused event.
The Hunter Valley's wineries still came out in force with over 60 of the region's premier producers - large and boutique - sharing their passion with over 2500 visitors at Crowne Plaza's Conference and Events Centre on Saturday.
A highlight of the festival was a wine-beer debate between Hunter Valley wine family royalty, John Drayton, and Sydney Brewery's Scott Hayward, whose on-site brewery hosted numerous tours and education sessions.
In the end, the two agreed that while there were plenty of arguments to favour one beverage over the other, it was best to enjoy the best of both - but in moderation of course.
They also agreed that the Hunter Valley's new brewers were being as innovative as their wine cousins, who were re-establishing the Hunter Valley as a powerhouse of the Australian wine industry.
To ensure a COVID-safe environment, the festival was held over two sessions, allowing plenty of room to move.
It attracted a large intra-state crowd, with the Crowne Plaza and other nearby hotels reporting full-houses over the weekend.
Festival organiser, Jenny Farrell of the Schwartz Family Company, said the return of the festival and its expansion to include brewers from around the region had been very well received by attendees.
"Judging by the volume of tastings, attendees really had a thirst for the new COVID-governed format," Ms Farrell said.
"After having to cancel last year's event because of COVID, it was really important for the Hunter Valley's wine and beer producers to be able to showcase their new product, especially as 2020 had been such a good vintage in the Hunter Valley, and 2021 is looking equally encouraging.
"Our winery exhibitors reported that while many attendees just wanted to taste the traditional Hunter Valley favourites such as Shiraz and Semillon, there was huge interest in the organic and biodynamic wineries, along with those wineries experimenting with new grape varieties.
"Of course, we had to change the nature of the event this year to ensure less crowding, but that meant an even smoother operation for all the exhibitors. It also was ideal for families who could allocate a few hours of tasting while their children were able to enjoy the special activities arranged for them.
"Importantly for the region, the festival attracted a large number of out-of-region visitors, with many hundreds staying overnight in Hunter Valley accommodation. The Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley was full for the weekend.
"It was tremendous once again to see $1900 raised by festival attendees for the richly-deserving Rural Fire Service, which reflects the community spirit of the event."
The Hunter Valley Wine and Beer Festival will be back in June 2022.