Ever wondered what it’s like to work at a beer festival? Well, I can tell you. It’s terrible. You spend all day trapped behind a counter, spilling beer on yourself, and pretending to laugh at drunk people’s jokes.

I’m kidding, it’s not like that at all.

Working a beer festival, whether you’re doing it for love, money or sex, is definitely work, but it’s also an immense amount of fun. You get to spend an entire day talking about beer, hanging out with beer people, and learning more about, well, beer. Sounds like a good way to spend a day to me.

With this in mind, I spent Saturday helping out on the Two Birds stand at the Ballarat Beer Festival. Two Birds Brewing is the creation of Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen, formed about 18 months ago. They’ve currently got two brews in their nest – Golden Ale, a sessionable little drink, and Sunset Ale, a gorgeous amber/red ale, which shows off the talents of crystal malt (and brewer Jayne). As you can tell, I like them both very much (especially the Sunset Ale), which made talking to the punters on Saturday pretty easy.

Ballarat (2)
The view from the taps – hay bales!
The Two Birds / Old Salt stand

While every beer festival is as different as its venue, certain things are constant. Beer festivals tend to have a community feel with brewers lending each other forgotten items (gaffer tape, pieces of keg couplers, pens) and swapping stories. There’s beer geeks hunting out unique brews. There’s also plenty of non-beer-geeks trying new beers, being impressed and just enjoying themselves, happy and relaxed. I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and sunshine; some people can be rude and a few have a little too much to drink, but these people are definitely the exception to the rule.

I know volunteering’s not for everyone and that’s good – we need someone to be the punters! However, beer events across New Zealand and Australia rely on volunteers, an army of people unpaid in wages, but often rewarded in session tickets, t-shirts, beer and good karma.

New Zealanders has many opportunities to get involved. The Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) has various beer festivals and events throughout the year; to keep up to date with them and support a great cause, join up now.* Hashigo Zake often needs volunteers for their events – keep an eye on their news page for information. And then there’s the mother-of-all-beer-events: Beervana.

Here in Melbourne, the Australian International Beer Awards is looking for stewards and the Great Australian Tap Spectapular will soon be recruiting. In Australia, it’s advisable that you have an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate) if you’ll be serving beer. An RSA is not hard to get though, just an afternoon of class and a 20-question, multiple choice quiz and you’re done.

These are just a sampling of the events available – keep an eye on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook for information on other events. And while you’re making plans  – try of Two Birds Sunset Ale and see what I’m raving about. Malty, malty goodness.

*How sexy is the SOBA sign-up page looking?