For most Brisbanites, Milton used to be a place they only ever passed through en route to somewhere else, the only memorable landmark a large, creepy man in a hat constantly winking down at them. The inner city warehouse district was more like the Platform 9 3/4 for lovers of ball sports (rather than Hogwarts) to get to their sacred Lang Park, rather than a destination in itself.
As for Caxton Street, that was more-or-less the meeting destination for those either celebrating or commiserating the actions of sweaty sports people.
However, it doesn't take much investigation to realise times, they are a changin’. Now Milton and Caxton Street are very much part of Brisbane’s thriving craft beer scene, collectively giving a royal bird to big beer in the most spectacular way. Venue and brewery owners have not only unapologetically flooded XXXX home territory with quality beer bars, they've plonked a craft brewery within the 10m line of the Suncorp Stadium.
All of which makes it fertile ground for a Crafty Crawl. So, get yourself on a train and head to Milton station – you won't want to drive for this one.
Stop One: The Scratch
Stepping into The Scratch feels like visiting a pal who possesses effortlessly kitsch style and way better taste than you do. Before you even have time to be bamboozled by the tap and bottled beer lists you’re beguiled by mural covered walls, speckled with local artist's works and the odd horned animal skull, seconds before being accosted by a shark head jumping out of the roof.
When you finally pull yourself back to reality, you’ll be pleased to find a selection of undeniably grouse beers from Australia and beyond. To say the person doing the ordering is a giant beer lover let loose in the proverbial candy shop is a pretty good way to explain it. But "fucking maniac" is equally apt, if not better.
The Scratch Bar was one of the first dedicated craft beer bars in Brisbane, kicking open its doors for the first time in 2012. The team (read: family) don’t just bring killa sips to lips, by way of draught and bottles, they throw some mad hatter parties to boot. Case in point: the annual Weekend of Darkness one of the insane events beer lovers flock to like seagulls onto stray chips.
This pint-sized venue frequently reaches capacity for its big events, so get in early or you’ll be waiting in line like a pleb until some poor sod leaves and gifts you their place. If you've spent time in Brisbane and haven’t visited, you might need your head read.
Luckily (or maybe unluckily…) for that noggin of yours, this bar is just stop one on the Milton Crawl.
You’ll find these good folks at 8/1 Park Road, Milton.
Stop Two: Aether Brewing
New kids on the block Aether Brewing did a pretty great job when it came to picking their location. If it was just so they could call The Scratch their neighbourino, you could hardly blame them. But their brewpub is also found smack bang in the middle of warehouse district, directly across from another of the River City’s recently erected high-rise apartment blocks and adjacent to the train station.
The good folks behind the bar serve up a mix of the brewery's own creations, rotating guest taps and a spirits list to rouse anybody’s taste buds into action. Better still, they’re keen to have a chat about any and all of it. Heck, you might even end up learning something from brewer Dave himself or sinking a fresh brew with co-founder Jimmy.
Opening in late 2016 was no easy feat, coming at a time when the Sunshine State saw some 14 new brewing companies start mashing in with a whole bunch of them in South East Queensland. Which is just as well – regardless of the increase in supply, demand seems to be bloody out of control, you animals. So much so that the brewers at Aether maxed out their on-site brewing capacity all most instantly. Thankfully, beer people are generally great people and Aether found hosts on the Sunny Coast where they could brew.
If the promise of liquid delights isn’t enough (did anyone ever tell you you’re demanding?), you can also treat yourself to a little mastication; Aether prides itself on being more than a brewery and more than a restaurant.
The treats coming out of the dining room upstairs are made for their beers, and their beers are made for their food. If for no other damn reason, go up for the chairs, your bum will praise you.
You’ll find Aether at 35 Railway Terrace, Milton.
Stop Three: Newstead Brewing Co Milton
Milstead - we overheard it at the brewery, so it has to be true - is the epitome of Brisbane’s thriving good beer scene. This mega brewery and pub sits on Castlemaine Street, under the watchinful eye of the aforementioned permanently-winking man-in-a-hat and directly across from Suncorp Stadium. As such, it’s a haven for good beer drinkers and sports fans alike.
The new venue features not less than 32 taps across three bars, featuring Newstead classics, small batches, collaborations and guest beers. There's a kitchen so you can snack, feast and gorge yourself silly. The open plan design has Brisbane’s sweltering summer in mind so, whether you plonk yourself inside or out, you’ll be in reach of a breeze.
The 50 hectolitre system is on display for brewers and beer nerds to admire, while the increased capacity it's created is allowing Newstead to mobilise the brews Brisbanites have come to know and love to the far reaches of this thirsty country. And, if more beer wasn’t good news enough, there's an on-site laboratory of impressive proportions; this is no microscope surrounded by a few beakers but a fully fledged science lab in which brewery co-owner and erstwhile molecular bioscientist Mark Howes and sidekick Dr Kerry Claydon can go hog wild. Talking of wild, in 2017 they started funding a PhD student to work with Brisbane's local yeasts with the intention of using them in future beers.
Get yourself down to Milstead and check out what the future of craft beer in Australia looks like – it’s really pretty.
Newstead Brewing Co Milton is located at 67 Castlemaine Street, Milton. Just look for the giant glowing sign.
Stop Four: Brewski
Husband and wife duo Matt Emmerson and Antoinette Pollock first flicked on their distinctive IPA light that hangs above the bar back in 2013. Since then, Matt has become known among the Brisbane beer community as a bit of a shopaholic: a mad man with a bar to fill with his ever beery dream.
Brewski is frequently pouring weird and wacky brews from all over this fine world. And they don’t stop at just one keg, no sirree. Brewski is known for mad as hell tap takeovers that have brought Brissie folks mouth-to-glass with the likes of Almanac, Evil Twin, Rodenbach and Rare-as-Fuck beers and almost always more than one keg at a time. Shit, even the Evil Twin himself, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, called in for a Meet the Brewer event in 2016.
Don’t be fooled, though, Brewski doesn't just go for the exotic imports. These guys and gals are all over the Aussie beer scene like a bad smell, or maybe a bar with a wealth of great options. And their mulled Wille Smiths Cider, well, it's second to none.
Sometimes overshadowed, but never forgotten, is the holy grail of dude food that makes up their menu. This menu has carnivores, omnivores and herbivores drooling - yes, they’ve got one hell of a vegan menu, and it’s the tits. Their weekday specials will keep your wallet happy, especially if you're a Crafty Cabalista and can take advantage of their two-for-one schooners on arrival – every day.
So, next time you’re strolling down Caxton Street, no matter what brought you there, look out for the open planned bar with footpath seating and a humble round sign. Or, just Maps: "22 Caxton St".
Stop Five: Fritzenburger
The newest kid on the block at time of publication, Fritzenberger opened on the corner of Petrie Terrace and Caxton Street in late 2016. The team behind on-trend crowd pleasers Harajuku Gyoza and Nitrogenie saw potential in the venue that previously housed party and karaoke institution Casablanca for 23 years.
The multi-storey space meant there was plenty of room to squeeze in a SmartBrew automated system. Here, wort brewed off-site is brought in to be fermented and dry-hopped before making its way into guests' glasses. Accompanying their own brews is a rotating guest tap list.
Now, if you're thinking the name is a reference to German inspiration, perhaps that of a wolf-hunting hefe warrior, we have to let you down. Fritzenburger is more a play on words: ‘frites’, or fries, and burgers. Thus you'll find fries and the almighty seasoning star, salt, elevated to their true place on the table: smack bang in the middle and served up with housemade pickles and an unbelievable variety of spiced salts.
Something Different: Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall
Colloquially called, simply, “Lefty’s”, this heritage listed building is the house of fun on Caxton Street. With a live rockabilly band almost every night of the week, they’ll have you jigging and jiving all over the dance floor before you have time to order another whapple. For the uninitiated, that’s the signature drink: a shot of whiskey and fresh apple juice. Just… maybe don’t call it a whapple. It isn’t exactly the official name. Even if some of us think it should be.
Being the venue open the latest on the street, Lefty’s is there for punters and bartenders alike. And, while its focus is on slinging whiskies, the selection of draught and bottled craft beers at this former brothel (although that's not the reason the stuffed animals on the wall are strewn with bras) is on point.
What's more, you might find another playground open upstairs: the Mermaid Bar, complete with ridiculously impressive model ship, giant plastic sea creatures overhead and a mean line in rum.
You can’t miss the Lefty’s lights from anywhere on the street, but if you need a ride home – and you will - drop the pin at 15 Caxton Street.
You Might Also Like...
- Hope & Anchor, 267 Given Street, Paddington – Brought to you by the folks behind Lefty's, Hope & Anchor is a classic English pub with a modern twist centred around gastronomy style pub grub and great booze.
- Craft Red Hill, 196 Musgrave Rd, Red Hill – Dedicated to bringing top notch craft beer, wine and spirits from Australia and the world to the people of Brisbane, complete with two rotating kegs waiting to fill your growlers and squealers.
You can check out other Crafty Crawls here.
About the author: Jules became involved in craft beer because of the people, but she's stuck around for the flavours. When she's not behind her computer, you'll find her behind the bar at Tippler's Tap.