We had travelled to the mighty land of microbreweries to venture north to Bridge Road Brewers and brew a collaborative beer for their Bar Series on behalf of our beloved Milton dive bar, The Scratch. Tim and I were in a unique position to talk the talk on this mission, having launched our own beer brand as the Brewtal Brewers in July earlier this year as a part of The Scratch’s QLD beer week celebrations.
We had emailed back and forth with the Bridge Road guys about various ideas and ingredients, and had decided on brewing a Scotch Ale, called The Scrotch.
It would be wrong of me to give it all away, but imagine a rich, toasty base of Marris Otter, layered crystal malts, a touch of peat, and… drum roll… a bunch of oak soaked in single malt Islay whiskey. One of the Bridge Road brewers Steve recently updated us by twitter that “your scrotch is 6.9% abv. And has wood.
We made the scenic drive to northern Victoria during the afternoon, stopping at the Ned Kelly memorial in Glenrowan and obligatory photo and arrived in Beechworth for dinner. Staying at the historic Tanswells Commerical Hotel – conveniently located 20m from the Bridge Road Brewery – we settled in for a few pints of Robust Porter from the hand pump by the fire. Absolutey perfect. Ben Kraus came down for a beer and dropped the bomb that brewing started at 6am the next morning, and so naturally we played pool and drank more porter and $6 glasses of amazing port that were quite… generous. I did honestly ask Ben if the 6 o’clock start thing was a brewer’s prank where the visitors are waiting in the cold and everyone else rocks up at 9, but he assured me it was legit, and we eventually hit the hay, prepared for tomorrows adventures.
Some curses were slung at generous port glasses at 5:15am on Wednesday morning, but up we were and across to meet up with Steve and Ben to get started. Our brewing experience actually comprised mostly of standing around asking Steve what that bit over there did and stirring/lifting/leaning when necessary, but with a coffee and a Ned Kelly pie in our guts by 8, the Scrotch was mashed in and smelling freakin delicious. A touch of peat filled the air as we giggled over the deep ruby hue pouring out of the mash tun, and the sample of pre-boiled wort we tasted was… well… freakin delicious. As we woke up more our brewing duties seemed to include cheekily taunting the patient and dry-humoured Steve while we measured and added hops and helped empty out the mash tun. Tim’s short limbs came in handy here as he jumped in to scour the last of the malt out and perform some insider-secret acrobatics to get everything clean.
We downed pretzels and a few tasters of the delicious Bridge Road Brewer’s taps as we toured the brewery, asked lots of little questions and took arty footage of steam in and out of focus and red valves. We touched lots of things we weren’t supposed to when no one was looking and really felt at home with the hospitality of Ben and the Bridge Road crew. Once the yeast was pitched and the Scrotch was in her happy bubbly home, we headed back to Melbourne, consoling ourselves with excellent metal and finding ways to taunt our bosses with what they were missing out on.
These things strike me as I reflect on our little brewing adventure – and we visited more breweries and beer bars than mentioned here – is I don’t think it’s just the products that attract punters to drink craft beer. I really believe in the people and their ethos behind the labels. Literally everyone we talked to involved in some way in the craft beer (or even fine food) industry was really down to earth, passionate, generous and lovely. We were given so much for free and made friends we can look forward to catching up with again soon. Great bars, brewers, consumers, promoters and distributors form a community of like-minded and usually very friendly people that are often really sticking their necks out out there for the sake of beer. I’m so glad to be a part of it, and really hope that the Scrotch tickles everybody’s taste buds. Get some into you if you have the chance, and check out #brewtalroadtrip if you want to see some snaps of our adventures.
The Scrotch will be available at select good beer beers after being launched at Scratch Bar, Brisbane, today…