Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bar - The Scratch, Milton (Brisbane)

Brisbane is my second home. Whilst my physical time on the ground there may have been limited to merely weeks of my 32 years, Queensland’s capital gave me my wife. Hence, my connection is strong and Brisbane is my most travelled destination outside of Victoria.

As craft beer breweries and venues bubbled away nicely in my home town of Melbourne, ensuring something new was always in reach for good beer lovers over the last 6 years, Brisbane was stuck in one spot for some time. That boring spot was surrounded in bland yellow fizz. Two years ago, a trip to Queensland required a dampening of one's expectation to satisfy your palate for good beer whilst in the state.

Since 2010 a few pockets of Brisbane attempted to offer a slice of the new craft beer market to the laid back population, but their offering was essentially "gateway" craft beers, those beers that really just put a name to a style and are not that far removed from the mass produced lagers that Queensland lives on.

We often left Brisbane with a serious itch for a big hit of flavoursome and characterful beer (on tap), something that wasn't just a mass-produced "craft" beer that you now find everywhere across the country. We itched for something that provided a genuine slice of character and diversity to compliment the eccentrics of craft brewing.

That itch can now be scratched, and in a very big way, thanks to a very small thing known as The Scratch...a self-proclaimed Dive Bar.

The Scratch wasted no time introducing Brisbane to beer nerd exploits. Against all common market sense, they did not take the approach of weaning the locals off their mass produced bland lager, which is brewed metres from the Scratch taps. Nor did they set up in the hip, bohemian or young-cultural districts like The Valley or West End. No, Scratch appeared in "working class" Milton, a stone’s throw from the Castlemain Perkins Brewery, home of XXXX beer, with a line up of draught and bottled beer that many would declare to be acquired tastes. Big, bold, beautiful beers from emerging local brewers and rock-star craft brewers from the other side of the world.

How the hell do they get away with it? I can only come to the conclusion that if you underpin a concept with personal passion and give the punters no other choice than to try what you have on offer, you will convert enough people to begin a following that will sustain a small business with walk-up clientele.

The Scratch co-owners - Ben Nichols, Kieran Ryan and Patrick Shevlin - all love beer and exploring the full spectrum of beer. "The idea for the Scratch was born out of the enjoyment of witnessing a growing interest in Brisbane for craft beer, but also a frustration in not yet having the right place to enjoy said craft beer. A small bar like ours offer an intimate and comfortable environment where one can sit, enjoy a hand crafted ale and discuss privately, or across the bar", Kieran told smallbarfly.

The success of Scratch to mostly bypass the "introductory" craft beers speaks to me of the power of good craft beer. The majority of craft beer lovers I know were converted not by a slow and gradual build from bland lager through soft pale ales to slightly dark beers onwards to extreme beers. No, many tell me that they had a revelation beer, a special moment from experience an impressively different beer that lead them to go back and discover everything else in the middle.

It was the same for me. old mate hands former macro-lager-drinking me a 8% abv, lush and fruity dark Belgian ale and I'm hooked by the revelation of the complexity possible in beer. It was my first flavoursome hit of rich malt and yeast characters. From there my beer journey began, as I went backwards through everything from the entry level beers to beyond. So why not lead Queensland drinkers down the same path? It can work...just see Scratch!

At first glance, the ethos of Scratch has been influenced by hipster and grunge. It is basic but beautiful, offering character to match that of the beers they pour. Antique style and mismatched furniture, dark colours and plenty of timber. A floor tom drum as a side table brought true delight to my heart.

There is thought behind the design, savvy placement of elements to appeal to those looking for cool but not pretentious.

Scratch is cosy, friendly, relaxed. It's the perfect environment for drinking good good beer.

At the moment there are 5 taps, one of those taps is a beer engine handpump. This means the beers are regularly, almost daily, rotated. The diversity offered by Scratch's tap rotations is actually a point of envy for many, as there are currently very few places in Australia that offer a whole new line-up of draught beer so regularly, that you can drink at one place and experience new beers several times a week. Those exciting local emerging breweries, such Four Hearts and Bacchus Brewing, are regular features on the beer taps alongside many of the top, often rare, new beers from Victoria's best craft breweries, as well as the international excellence of Mikkeller, Nøgne Ø, Haand and Yeastie Boys.

I love Scratch's use of a live chalkboard menu image displaying their current tap list. Helpfully, they share the updated pic on their website and across social media every time their beer taps change.

Conveniently located on a small vibrant main strip of Milton, a very short walk from the train station and an easy walk into the city (2.5km max) thanks to the riverside Bicentennial bike/walkway.

Yes, get to this bar and scratch your palate's itch for something different! If it’s not for you, then that's ok...Scratch is too small to be for the moment.

Thank you Scratch for bringing your little piece of good beer love to Brisbane. I can’t wait to return for another session.

There's no doubt that the success of Scratch has been in-part responsible for the recent mini boom of craft beer loving small bars around Brisbane. Brisbane's beer market is now diverse and interesting enough to support a week long festival of beer, with the inaugural Queensland Beer Week ready to lift off next week (July 16 - 22, 2012)!

The Scratch is hosting a bunch of excellent beery events for QLD Beer Week. We'll be there for a couple - International Brewers Day with Australian Brews News - The Boring Beer Festival and hopefully 2Birds vs Cavalier.

We're excited to be returning to this humble gem of a bar. Hope to see you there!

Find The Scratch at: 
(07) 3107 9910
Hours: Mon - Sun, 12:00pm - 12:00am

No comments:

Post a Comment