Politics, they say, is a messy business. But is it as messy as blending 100 different kegs together and releasing the resulting beer?
It’s not a question you’d likely ever have contemplated were it not for the debut of a new beer brand in the lead up to the federal election. It goes by the name Assclown and the first release is G'Day, My Name is ScoMo, a 6.66 percent ABV sour alt-IPA.
It’s the brainchild – or, perhaps, twisted offspring – of Rob Burness, who has been running Melbourne’s Chapel St Cellars for the past 12 years with partner Joanne Mamone. Since opening the idiosyncratic bottleshop-bar hybrid, he’s also imported the likes of BrewDog and Mikkeller and launched Beeblebrox Beverages.
Within the Douglas Adams-inspired drinks company sit two different beer brands: Wunsie, which focuses on creating one standard drink releases (the current Wunsie, Refreshing Ale, is reminiscent of an English copper ale); and Assclown, which focuses on public figures.
Rob calls the first Assclown release a “multicultural brew”, one that started out as a blend of leftover beers he’d imported. Within the 100 blended kegs were around 45 different varieties, including IPAs, brown ales and sour beers from BrewDog, Omnipollo, Against The Grain and Mikkeller, with the best before dates on most somewhere around 2014.
Upon sampling the unlikely concoction, they decided to take it further into sour territory, sourcing a Belgian yeast strain and refermenting the liquid to encourage greater integration.
“We worked out what way it was going and it was heading towards sour so we kept it going that way a bit,” Rob says. “Then I looked to how it tasted and how to mellow it out and I’d had some beetroot beers in the past, so I put beetroot in.”
The result is as complex and gnarly as one might expect, with the decision to name the beer after the Prime Minister driven by his frustration with the current political climate, particularly in regard to the treatment of asylum seekers and how Scott Morrison had seemed to “Bradbury” his way into the position of Liberal leader.
On the cans you'll find statements such as: "I like coal. I like to take it to work", "I don't like tribes. I like one nation" and "I contain mixed messages & dodgy slogans. And beetroot."
Rob says: “We’d looked at what was happening in terms of politics and what people could get away with. I just thought it was all worthy of being an Assclown.”
Those who’ve followed Rob and Joanne over the years as they’ve worked to bring all manner of weird and wonderful liquids to their customers know to expected the unexpected, yet the latest venture still represents something of a step into the unknown. While the Wunsie brand is to be Beeblebrox’s main focus, the intention is to release around three Assclown beers a year, each dedicated to someone he believes worthy of critique.
“We want Assclown to be a brand where, through sarcasm and humour, we shine a spotlight on bad behaviour from people, backed up with some imaginative, tasty drinks and some merchandise,” Rob says. “Different kinds of beers that will definitely mirror people out there.
"This one started sour, then got a bit more mellow but also bitter, so that kind of summed up ScoMo nicely.”
It’s a beer that’s been quietly following the campaign trail too; Rob took a photo of the beer outside Tony Abbott’s electoral office in Manly and managed to hand one to a member of the Opposition leader’s team during an anti-Adani convoy.
“We’ve given it to Bill Shorten’s people and they said they’d give it to him,” he says.
Months of polling and a tightening betting market suggest May 18 may not leave ScoMo the man with a smile on his face, but the Assclown team will be hoping the beer brings a smile to others.
“We’ll be doing an election day sausage sizzle at Chapel St Cellars,” Rob says, “and we’ll have the ScoMo beer on tap.”
Beyond that, they hope both Wunsie and Assclown can become crowdfunded or “community-owned” brands.
“We are also experimenting with ice cream [under the TPSY name] and alcohol free products called Nunsie,” he says. “Stay tuned...”
You can join Rob and Joanne for a democracy sausage and Assclown beer as they celebrate the 12th anniversary of Chapel St Cellars (and the election) on May 18 at 89 Chapel Street, Windsor. Profits from sales of the beer will go to indigenous and asylum seeker charities.