#137 – Scratch Brewing Company in Ava, IL




Our first Illinois brewery to visit during our trip last year was Scratch Brewing Company located on some farmland about an hour and a half southeast of St. Louis, MO. Scratch was one of the most distinctly unique, beautiful, and remote breweries that we saw all year and remained that way through to the end. With a focus on locality, the people at the brewery forage and/ or grow ingredients on their land to use in the beer recipes; mushrooms, roots, pine needles, multiple herbs & spices, and hops for example. During our time sampling in their taproom, we got to try some Gruits, a Gotlandsricka, a Licorice Basil Schwarzbier, a beer made with maple sap instead of water, and a handful of other beers that prove this is not your everyday brewery; the best part is they are brewed well and we enjoyed each and every one of them! The Scratch crew also told us that they were planning to only enter beers that do not have hops in them at GABF in Denver later in the year and when we ran into them at the festival a few months later they had done just that. Do not miss out on an opportunity to visit the amazing people, location, scenery, and beers that make up Scratch Brewing Company – it’s the full package!



Date of our visit: May 17, 2014
Open since: March 1, 2013
Approx. Barrel (bbl) Output 2013: 120 bbl
Approx. Barrel (bbl) Output 2014: 180 bbl
Projected bbl Output 2015: 220 bbl
Brewhouse size: 1.5 bbl
Founder(s): Marika Josephson, Ryan Tockstein, and Aaron Kleidon
Head Brewer: Marika, Ryan, and Aaron
Packaging: Kegs only; hope to bottle soon
Distribution: IL only


Other things we learned:

* They forage their land for ingredients and grow hops (Cascade, Chinook, Willamette, and Nugget) on their land, with a major focus on locality

* For the first three months, they brewed everything over an open fire since they did not have propane out there

* Strong focus on experimentation and nontraditional, out-of-the-box brewing; Gruits, Sahtis, Steinbeers (Stone Beers), Farmhouses, etc…

* Don’t have a lot of fermentation temperature control, so they brew recipes according to the temperature of the season; i.e. they brewed a Biere de Garde in the winter and saisons during the spring/ summer

* They harvested a wild yeast strain which they have used in some batches, including a stout

* A mural of the Piasa Bird covers one wall – it is a Native American legend believed to haunt the Mississippi River bluffs


* Brew on their 1.5 bbl system 2-3 times a week

* Have food all weekend, including some local cheeses as well as bread and pizzas from their wood fire oven outside (the pizzas use all ingredients either grown on site or purchased from local farms)

* Offer some sodas, like root beer and ginger ale

* Have a board outside to play Chicken “Poop” Bingo




* Munich Alt
* Dandelion Ginger Gruit
* Wild Rose Root
* Licorice Basil Schwarzbier
* Gruit Root Stout
* Lotus Seed Farmhouse Ale
* Gotlandsricka
* 9 Hour Barleywine
* Maple Sap Mumm
* Burdock Sahti (Tried @ GABF)
* Saison 105 (Tried @ GABF)
* Brett Gruit Stout (Tried @ GABF)
* Mumm (Tried @ GABF)
* Nettle-ginger Saison (Tried @ GABF)
* Listing of current beers



What we learned about their beer during our visit:

* They cultivated around 50 lbs of hops in 2013 which they used as wet hop additions in their beers

* In 2014, they entered only Gruit style beers at GABF (no hops; herbs, spices, and other ingredients were used instead)

* As of the time of our visit, they had brewed 85 recipes in 2013 and another 20-30 at the beginning of 2014

* The first Sahti they did was awesome, but they have tweaked it along the way; some examples include a stein brewed Sahti brewed entirely with hot granite rocks as the heat source, a Sahti that was fermented in a red wine barrel, a Sahti with brettanomyces added, and other variations

* Use red wine barrels from local wineries, including some from Alto Vineyards

* Have made multiple beers using mushrooms foraged from their land, including a chanterelle mushroom saison, a coffee stout with black trumpet mushrooms, a beer that utilized hen of the woods mushrooms, and more

* Maple Sap Mumm is a beer they brewed entirely with maple sap and no water


Building a new building for special events and rebuilding a log cabin originally built in the 1800s as an outdoor bar and gallery space.


[Brandon, Marika, Ryan, Aaron, Michael]

Name: Marika Josephson
Been with company since: The Beginning
Previous Brewing Experience: Homebrewing
Previous Occupation(s): Editor
Favorite Superhero: Boris & Natasha (from Rocky & Bullwinkle)

Name: Ryan Tockstein
Been with company since: The Beginning
Previous Brewing Experience: Homebrewing
Previous Occupation(s): Science teacher
Favorite Superhero: Batman

Name: Aaron Kleidon
Been with company since: The Beginning
Previous Brewing Experience: Big Muddy Brewing
Previous Occupation(s): Guitar instructor
Favorite Superhero: Mark Twain


* Brewery Website
* Events Calendar
* Feast Magazine – “From the Ground Up”
* Video: “Scratch Brewing Company” directed by Daniel Wilson

(7) You can find the rest of our PHOTOS HERE

Author: Michael Roberts & Brandon Wurtz


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