Going to the source, Moon Dog

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28 March 2015 by mikey

Welcome, it’s time for the third in this monthly series on brewery visits.

Moon Dog entry

Moon Dog entry is on Duke St in Abbotsford

Once upon a time I picked up beer named after a Mullet (hair, not fish) and was asking “what the hell is Moon Dog all about?” Fast forward a few years and there I am at the brewery asking that question. And getting a somewhat straight answer.

Moon Dog are a strange brewery, making some of the oddest beers hitting the Australian craft beer market. Experimentation in beer ingredients and a healthy dose of strange names for those beers. Fruit and vegetables are a key feature for them, if it’s not in one beer expect it in the next.

Moon Dog beer list

Moon Dog beer list. This is always changing, sometimes a few times a day!

Batch-to-batch is their other major feature. And that’s not to say that they simply do a different beer from the last brew. It’s much more than that. They have a reputation for making the same recipe slightly different every batch. Not always intentionally, but rather their free-and-easy approach crossed with out-there-experimentation attitude to the brewing process. That is more pronounced in their seasonal beers, like Black Lung which has one or more key elements changes each time. Then there’s the one off batches or series, like the mullet ones from a few years back.

Moon Dog non beer list

Moon Dog also have wine and cider. Something for everyone.

With those two key influences there is a risk of failure. And I think it’s fair to say they’ve had a few of those in the past. A few years ago, while doing 366 Days of Beer my friends and I use to joke that Moon Dog only had one in five good beers. That was a tad bit harsh. And after the brewery tour, I understood a bit of the reason why that was the case in the past. A big factor was freshness of beer and way they were bottle conditioned. They had venues sitting on their beers that where stored unchilled and for much longer than should be. That was after being inconsistently bottling conditioned at the brewery. No surprise on the result.

Moon Dog pizza van

Moon Dog pizza van out front. Open when the bar is open.

For all the complaining about the past, Moon Dog have come a long way. Personally I haven’t had a bad beer from them in a couple years. A few average ones, and that’s as much personal preference as quality. A key part for the improvement is that they have a fancy bottling line that force carbonates, giving a much more even quality across a whole batch. Stock moves a bit quicker with less sitting around. They also have some other shiny new equipment allowing more focus on brewing tasty beer, rather than working around the equipment.

Moon Dog couches

Moon Dog couches and wall covered in posters

The brewery bar has been open less than a year. It’s funky, it’s small, it’s hipster, and it’s relaxed. With only a handful of taps and a fridge of beers they are still able to offer up a great range of beers. The brewery do one keg batches of the crazy experimental stuff, yes even more crazy than the stuff they release to the wider Melbourne public. When we were there they had a Bloody Mary brown beer and served it up with a stick of celery in it! Unfortunately I missed out as it was all gone by the end of the brewery tour. But they did a limited bottle release as well. Expect a review soon.

Moon Dog taps and fridge

Moon Dog taps and fridge. Check out their metal grower on top of the fridge!

One of the cool things is the free popcorn. Yep, free popcorn. Nice work. There’s also a permanent food truck/van out front in the form of an old style caravan making small pizzas. Did I mention the hipster vibe before?

The floor is decked out with a range of couches, bar stools, and different takes on the ideas off what a table is. Hanging from the ceiling are a range of 70’s-90’s chandlers. The walls are mostly covered with poster size versions of their old beer labels. Some of these are over three years old and the beers that had those labels are unlikely to see the side of a glass ever again. The posters help to show the journey the brewery has been on over just a few years.

Moon Dog brew equipment

Moon Dog brew equipment made from dairy equipment

The tour is free and pretty relaxed. The brewery is split between two rooms/spaces. First space is the area behind the bar. It includes all the original equipment, old dairy equipment that’s been converted into a brewery. Second area is via a bookcase door! How cool is that? Anyway, this second space has a bunch of the new equipment including fermenters and bottling line. Their barrels are also kept here. These are used for the Black Lung beers, and a few others. There’s plenty of the usual your stuff like being process, grain tasting and hop smelling, and history of the brewery. The best part of tour is the stories. This place has had a history of near misses and oddity which seams to really capture the essence of the place. And no question is off limits, but don’t always expect a straight answer.

Moon Dog bookcase door

Moon Dog bookcase door to the other equipment, bottling line and packing area

This was my first time to the brewery and while there got a very important call. So I was a bit distracted, not many photos. I’ll expect to head back again in the not to distant future. Maybe I’ll get to try a beer with celery in it, or could be a cinnamon stick, or candy cane, or…

And the name? Moondog was a poet in New York from late 1940’s to 1972. Apparently he was successful although he was blind. A pusher composer, inventor of musical instruments and challenger of the status quo. There’s a documentary being made about him at the moment.

Moon Dog bottling line

Moon Dog bottling line and packing area

It’s this spirit alive in this brewery in Abertsford, Melbourne. Well worth the trip down, up, across or sideways to Moon Dog.

-Mikey

Key facts…

Where?

17 Duke St, Abbotsford VIC 3067, Australia

Getting there?

Get the 12 or 109 tram from the city. Get off at McKay St, stop 22 on Victoria St.
Car parking very is limited.

When?

Thursday & Friday 4 pm to 11 pm+
Saturday 12 pm to 11 pm+

Drinks?

Yes.
Beer: 8 taps (not always on). Always rotating
Cider: normally one tap
Wine: 5 or so, red and white
Non-alcohol: limited range

Take away?

Yes.
Growlers. Bottles in packs or singles.

Food?

Yes.
Free popcorn at the bar!
Pizzas: a few regulars (hand size) plus a special
Nachos.

Payment?

Cash or card.
Can set up a tab. No digital tabs.

Tour?

Yes.
Saturdays from 2:30 pm. Limit to 15, first in best dressed.
Free.
About 40 mins. Requires closed footwear.
Includes brewery history, beer brewing process, ingredients samples, walk around equipment. No tasting samples.

Tips?

There’s a new beer nearly every week at the brewery. This includes some very small single keg batches for brewery release only. Get there in the first few hours and order any special beers early on, as these run out very quickly.
Food van is pretty accommodating if it’s quite. We ordered a nacho pizza which they where happy to try.
Place can get very busy on Saturday late afternoon/night.
Plan trip home well in advance. Very limited public transport there, much less on way home.

Moon Dog different lights

Moon Dog crazy range of different lights. Note the Christmas and Halloween stuff up, all year round.

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