32 Chifley Dr Preston, VIC 3072
|Opening hours||Mon-Wed 11am-10pm, Thu & Sun 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-1am|
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Events, Family friendly, Outdoor seating|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9428 2307|
Those crazy Moon Dog kids are at it again. This time they've taken the punk/frat house/so-bad-it's-good aesthetic they pioneered at their original brewery bar in Abbotsford, cranked it up about a million notches in a vast former car parts factory in Preston, and created their own theme park, Moon Dog World.
They commit to the theme-park theme immediately via a large retro-styled neon sign out the front that bathes the industrial neighbourhood in pink and green.
Inside, there's a floodlit public-pool-blue lagoon with a fountain. It's surrounded by striped deckchairs and umbrellas and is fed by a river and a slightly pathetic waterfall. There's a bridge across the river and the retractable ceiling is festooned with fairy lights.
There are seating areas on top of shipping containers, next to a gated children's playground, in an outside beer garden and around a central bar equipped with 75 taps that dispense cocktails and wine as well as beer. There's a tiki bar and a pinball parlour and a licence for 725 people.
Quite frankly, Moon Dog World is more than a little nuts. In less witty hands it could easily have gone up in a bonfire of hubris. But there's a charming playfulness to the whole venture, backed by surprisingly solid service that holds everything in place. And the beer is very, very good.
Most of the beer is Moon Dog's own, on tap and in cans, but there are also a few blow-ins from other craft breweries ("Friends of Moon Dog"). There's a compact list of Australian wines that keep it interesting with the likes of Mac Forbes Spring Riesling and Jamsheed's Harem Syrah and the quality of the booze on the bar shelves is proof that the cocktails, even when dispensed via tap, are no afterthought.
Moon Dog's trademark name puns have become increasingly tortured over the years just as the beer itself becomes more finessed and interesting. It's very yin and yang.
"Tell Him He's Creamin" is a mid-strength beer based on creaming soda that has a sweet nose just like the original but a smooth, slightly sour and very refreshing finish. There's a brilliant sour made with boysenberries called "David Boysenbowie" and an apple crumble dessert sour: "In The Crumble The Mighty Crumble".
Some of Moon Dog's best work comes with the stronger beer in the collection, including the satisfyingly chewy and oaky porter "Barrel Normal Activity" and the knock-your-socks-off moves of the 9.1 per cent alcohol by volume Skunk Works – a double IPA aged in cognac barrels, and Bad Boy Bubbly – a smooth, powerful barley champagne that clocks in at 13.1 per cent ABV.
The food on the lengthy list has its moments, buffalo cauliflower and squid tentacle karaage among them, but there's a sense of overreach (do they really need to be attempting sushi?) and elements like seasoning and burger construction suffer for it. There's no faulting the generosity of the serves, though.
To dub the success of Moon Dog World a pleasant surprise might be understandable, given the lunatic ambition on display, but it's also patronising given that this crew has been successfully marching to the beat of its own drum for years. Here's hoping they keep marching the same way for many more.
Martini meter n/a
Please. It's a brewery – drink beer.
Go-to bar snack Deep-fried buffalo cauliflower with chipotle butter and pickles, $13. Generously flavoured, obviously addictive, surprisingly balanced. It's a snack food that would be in the wedding party if beer ever got married.