Moon Dog was a blind American musician who dressed up as a Viking and played experimental music on instruments he built himself. When Josh and Jake Uljans and Karl Van Buuren needed a name for the unconventional craft brewery they had built from the ground up, it seemed like the perfect fit.
Josh, Jake and Karl were home brewers that decided to branch out with a commercial brewery in 2011. In setting up their operations, the three men built a lot of the equipment themselves, repurposing retro-fitted dairy tanks for their brewhouse. Nestled in an industrial area of Abbotsford, they created a space – complete with chandeliers – that gives visitors an unfiltered look into the beer brewing process. Since its inception, Moon Dog has rapidly grown and expanded accordingly, recently taking over an adjoining warehouse in 2017 to allow for more opportunities to entertain and of course, more beer.
Karl takes on the position of Head Brewer, overseeing the creation process of their left-of-centre offerings. The team follow the ethos that you can put anything into beer, as long as the end result is delicious. They age their beers in barrels; styles are blended; and interesting ingredients appear on the list (past releases have been infused with Redskins lollies, watermelon, pumpkin and truffles, to name a few).
They wanted to make fun, experimental and interesting beer and the brand names follow the same unconventional ethos, with labels such as Perverse Sexual Amalgam, The Artisan Poser and The George Freeth Memorial Brown Ale. Releases are seasonal, but there are a couple that stick around all year, including the best-selling Love Tap Lager. It’s a crisp and clean craft lager that boasts a tropical and citrusy hit from Australian hops, Galaxy and Enigma.
If that wasn’t enough of a shake up, in 2014 the boys expanded to open a brewery bar. Here, passionate visitors can try one of the 10 beers on tap, as well as a range of wines and ciders, in a space that screams homely comfort. Dotted with reclaimed furniture, blown up pictures of their labels and a wall of barrels, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a unique brew while seeing first-hand just how it got to be in your glass.
Food comes courtesy of the Pizza Caravan, where Chef, Ioreth Tudor turns out pizzas that are just as interesting as the brews. Leonardo Dicapricciosa combines house-made tomato sauce with mushrooms, olives, artichokes, crispy pancetta and mozzarella, while the Return of the Mack features truffled mackerel, red onion, capers, dill, olives and mascarpone. There are also two ever-changing specials that are so good they’re named twice – ‘Special Special 1’ and ‘Special Special 2’. The sourdough culture used in the bases also comes from one of the wild fermented beers, meaning there’s a little beer in everything on offer.
And just to keep things interesting, 2017 saw the initiation of Roller Disco Sundays. Here Moon Dog turns into a 70s style roller blading disco on the first Sunday of every month. Each month has is themed more outrageously than that before it, so come fully prepared for an unprecedented experience.
Moon Dog is bucking every convention in the craft beer world, and it’s clearly working for them. They’ve taken their brewing production capacity from 400 000 liters to 2.5 million liters each year and have stretched distribution further and further around Australia. With plenty of beers in rotation, a rollerblade disco for you to get funky at and an eclectic atmosphere, a trip to Moon Dog is nothing if not entertaining.