Iíve had readers jokingly complain that Iíve exposed their off-the-radar watering holes that already are a carful away from becoming overcrowded. Itís like watching your favorite indie band achieve mainstream success: Itís good for them, but now youíre forced to share them with the Johnny-come-latelys.
This time, I have a secret spot of my own. Itís a brewery that takes more than a few cues from the Ď70s U.K. punk band Crass that famously sabotaged its own success.
The brewery is Dunedinís Antibrewery, which has established a modest cult following while running itself in the most counterintuitive way possible.
For starters, itís open only on Sunday, and for just about seven hours. Seriously. Then thereís the wildly eclectic soundtrack ó everything from King Crimson to Kylesa ó played from vinyl records picked by bartenders and guests from a box at the bar. The overtaxed air-conditioning struggles to keep up with the heat, and the interior is bare plywood and cozy thrift-store furniture.
There are no descriptions for the beers on the menu, just cryptic names like Horse Meat and Deep Fakes. That menu changes weekly, and often during the course of the lone business day, too. Antibrewery takes pride in its lack of flagships, but some beers like the aforementioned Horse Meat (an IPA), as well as Pickle Bier (itís what you think it is) make repeat appearances. Aside from those, youíll need to come in with an open mind and adventurous palate.
I first learned about Antibrewery when it opened as Stations of the Craft, an offshoot of Dunedin Brewery named after the Crass album Stations of the Crass. Stations operated as an underground pop-up that announced its sporadic openings on Instagram.
While Antibrewery maintains a mysterious presence on social media, a small amount of digging will reveal its association with Dunedin Brewery. The two breweries share personnel and equipment, and the de facto face of Antibrewery is Michael Lyn Bryant, who is the vice president and general manager of Dunedin Brewery.
The breweryís initial offerings were exclusively of the big, barrel-aged variety. Iím talking tripels, wild ales and pale ales, aged in everything from gin to tequila barrels. The draft list was spray-painted directly onto the wall with stencils and the beers poured into mismatched vintage glassware.
From the start, Antibrewery also has sold corked and caged bottles of its fruited barrel-aged wild ales under the Stations of the Craft brand, and these have been consistently better than they have any right to be, considering they represent the first such output from this group of brewers.
Itís not just me: Stations of the Craft Ritual Madness, a cabernet barrel-aged dark ale with raspberries and wild-beer cultures, took home silver in its category at the 2018 World Beer Cup. With beer like that, you canít stay underground forever.
To Bryant, Antibrewery is a form of protest against what he sees as the "growing commercialization of independent beer and breweries." The whole business ó the aesthetic, the gleefully off-style beers, the hours of operation ó is contrarian, but what appears to be chaos is actually quite deliberate. Itís noise to some, and vital music to others.
Take my advice and donít sleep on this brewery. Whether or not you agree with Bryantís assessment of independent breweries, youíll have no choice but to appreciate the sheer uniqueness of Antibrewery, a sincere and successful exercise in breaking conventions while reveling in absurdity and bold ideals.
ó Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.