So you would think, as an exceptionally trendy beer blogger, I would be always at the Scratch and sport a thick and luscious beard. Unfortunately only the part about being trendy was true.
The Scratch was just awarded Brisbane best new bar in the eat/drink awards, which is pretty amazing. Not that they aren’t any good or anything, but they spent most of the year only allowed 65 or so in at any one time. Also the small bars licensing thingy meant every man and his dog opened a bar in the last twelve months, so there was lot of competition.
As an ex-Sydneysider, it’s hard to avoid the urge to call the Scratch a bit of a Shady Pines knockoff, down to the oxen, large beards and complimentary peanuts. Just need a bit of Johnny Cash playing now to really seal the deal. But to their credit, the team have really pulled the theme off with aplomb and the Scratch has become an awesome bar in its own right.
Last Saturday, the Westbender was at Scratch for the awesome combination of excellent things on a hot Brissie day. Yes, you may be thinking tight black jeans and long beards, but the answer could also be beer and ice cream. Who’d a thunk it. The guy at Scratch was pretty chuffed to talk up that noone’s ever done this before, but we’re about to find out exactly how good they are together.
The Milton beer bar was playing host to Moon Dog Brewer Josh Uljans (the Scratch Fb page has a shot of his Gosling good looks), who braved and somehow survived a Tiger Air flight to Brisbane to be here. Obviously being one of Australia’s most exciting brewers pays really well.
Josh comes across as very into his beer, and talked about his past as a wildly experimenting homebrewer. At the same time he gives off the impression they’re standing around a mash tun at Moon Dog, throwing random shit in and hoping for the best. It seems to be working. I’m not sure if he instigated the beer/ice-cream thing, but it fits the Moon Dog manifesto.
But, on to the beers!
#1 Love Tap Double Lager (with mango and coconut): Uljans described this as pretty much a lager version of an ipa, and very smashable. Ahhh, bugger he’s really right – I can’t think of any better way to describe it. It goes in like a crispy and dry version of some massive hop-laden ale, but super refreshing and drinkable in the lower degrees celsius. I really like the use of Moteuka hops – yeah that makes me start to seem a bit wanky (I did have to be told they were Moteuka), but while I love American IPAs, I don’t mind a refreshing break from the aromas of the Galaxy/Cascade.
It does drive tart and strong, super hoppy but fresh. The biggie is its clash with the ice cream, which has a round soft feel, like putting a feather pillow on a firm bed. The bed is like a posture pedic or something along those lines, high quality, sleep able and comes with a ten year guarantee. It finishes with a piney aftertaste, which seems really green, but an overall well rounded flavour. It’s taking all my might not to drop the ice cream into the beer and have frothy double lager everywhere.
After drafting that, I did drop the ice-cream in – it was disappointing, and just ended up with milky 2lager (that’s how we abbreviate it around these parts).
#1.5 Freaks and Geeks (Danish Farmhouse Ale): The first of two bottled tasters for the arvo, the F&G had a genre created all for itself (they must be very popular with beer judges). It is dark and smokey and slightly sour beer, and extremely confusing. Almost tart. I’ve now used that word twice, and I really don’t know what it means. The boys apparently thought of the recipe of the morning, which comes across in the brew. And the chunks.
#2 Artisan Pouseuré Pumpkin Ale (with pumpkin and balsamic ice-cream): What a name! I have no idea what ‘pouseure’ means, but it sure is fancy for what can be considered a fruit beer. Pumpkin ales are often hit or miss, and most I have had are miss. This one aint bad.
The pumpkin doesn’t dominate here, and sits as a bit of a “shit almost forgot the pumpkin” rush through as a bit of tang after the swallow, which is a nice dimension. Paired with the pumpkin and balsamic dessert, which tastes a whole lot sweeter than it sounds, it was probably the best match of the three.
It compares favourably to my bar stool, which is probably due to me giving up the swivelly one to the nice people to my right. At this stage, with several beers, and a bit of ice-cream in us, standing was a little difficult.
#2.5 The Great American Challenge: With Dan Ackroyd on the cover, the GAC is of a genre I can’t remember, but I’m guessing that it’s one they probably made up. I shall say Grape Trappist (edit – I saw on the picture it says Funko-Trappist). It’s a little Belgian, but the dominant feature is the awesome red-wine aroma, from the shiraz cask aging, which is followed by a punchy ale. This is the beer that will get your big red drinking friend into awesome craft beers. Suggestions are welcome for any others, aged in red wine barrels is a must, because that aroma is so fucking good.
#3 Wild Blonde (Sour Blonde) (with lemon sorbet): What a climax. I had stopped taking notes by now so I can’t tell you how they got the beer made, or anything about it’s history or heritage, but the rest is truly memorable. I can’t speak to the pairing because the sorbet had melted and been drunk by the time the beer came.
But the beer. Wow. Seriously. Wow.
The persipiration in that glass is in fact perspiration, but it could be very well my tears. This is crazy beer done right. Done sour. Done awesomely. Here’s another pic while I catch my breath.
Maybe I’m just new to sour beers (very new), but this is really something. Not terribly cidery at all, but tangy like it knows how to tang. In a chat afterwards, while I sipped on my second, Josh told me that “sour is the new bitter” when it comes to beer, and (being starstruck by the Notebook star) I just dumbly nodded.
But seriously, Moon Dog has made something really nice here. The other beers are delicious, and have their little edges of craziness, but they can seem like a bit of a novelty. This here, however, could be the Next Big Thing, and it excites me a lot about the direction of craft beer. I’m not going to go through the flavour, because you need to try this yourself. Do it.
Overall it’s very exciting to see some of the stuff Moon Dog, and Australian microbreweries in general, are producing. Truly some world-class and ground-breaking stuff. At the end of the day though, the pairing of ice-cream with beer leaves the drinker a little bloated, and while it can work, it’s not best doing with a run of beers. Scratch is planning on doing a series of brewer events in the new year, so please follow them on Facebook, or regularly drop in and get to one, because they are definitely well worth it.
Finally, in a chat with Josh after the proceedings, I floated the mad brewer the idea of a cheese beer. He doesn’t think it would work terribly well (something to do with lipids), but pushed me in the direction of Mamma Mia Pizza Beer. Terrible web page, but interesting concept.