FOOD FEST BEER BAN
By Jamie Brown
CONNOISSEURS of locally-brewed beer will have to forgo their desires at the upcoming Taste of Byron festival as a result of a sponsorship deal with Tooheys.
Alstonville-based microbrewers Kevin and Andrea Rowland have been banned from the gourmet food fest because organisers cannot accommodate their sales during the two-day event for fear of breaching the valuable contract.
Yet Byron is the fledgling brewery's best local market. They even brew a lager especially for Byron Bay's Earth and Sea Pizza.
"Last year we exhibited at A Taste of Byron and it went extremely well," recalled founding brewer Kevin Rowland. "We are in a tourist-driven market. We would have liked to support our six Byron Bay outlets by exhibiting again this year.
"We're not whingeing, but we are disappointed."
Byron United spokesman Ed Ahern said the ban was as a result of 'straightforward economics'.
"Tooheys gave us the money. Without money you can't put on an event like this," he said.
"We would love to have the North Coast Brewing Company's beer, but this is an economic exercise, that's all."
President of the Lions Club of Byron Bay, Kerry O'Bryan, said that without the Tooheys contract there might not be a Taste of Byron.
"This is a charity event," he said. "Half of the money raised goes to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the rest to early intervention in the Byron Shire.
"We need every bit of support and Tooheys came up with the best offer."
However, Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham noted that 'in principle' the Taste of Byron should be all about Byron.
"The event is meant to be a showcase for local suppliers, restaurants and food producers," she said. "It is about what we produce, what we value-add, what we offer to locals and visitors.
"We have more than enough local food producers to fly this flag. It is really important to be proud of what we do. We have many award-winning food producers, and the Taste of Byron is a celebration of the great output that we have here."