Spotlight on Scratch Brewing Company: This unique farmhouse brewery near the Shawnee National Forest focuses on homegrown, locally farmed and foraged ingredients
Photo by Kendall Karmanian
Scratch Brewing Company
Where you’ll find it: 264 Thompson Road in Ava, IL 62907
Friday-Sunday — Noon-8 p.m.
To-go growler and bottle sales available by appointment
History in short: A-back-to-the-land throwback idea, this quaint brewery that focuses on homegrown, locally farmed and foraged ingredients, is the creation of Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon, who were nominated for a 2020 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer. They also wrote a book, The Homebrewers Alamanac, for those seeking information on brewing with native plants.
The space: Located 90 minutes southeast of St. Louis is Ava, Illinois. And a few minutes outside of town, down a gravel road, lies this truly unique farmhouse brewery on the edge of a beautiful forest. The quaint patio is a fun spot to gather around the fire pit, and a black walnut bar inside can be a conversation starter. Don’t forget to check out the Serpent Room, their colorful event space decorated by a local artist. Insider’s tip: Hit an ATM on the way, as Scratch is cash only.
We want everything to smell and taste like our part of the woods in Southern Illinois, and that’s really our inspiration behind our beer and what we do.
Interesting note: Scratch offers a creative rotation of beers, as draft options largely depend on what’s available in their gardens and the woods nearby. Berries, leaves, flowers, mushrooms, maple sap, hickory — it’s all a target for their foraging buckets. If you’re looking for a hike, the popular Shawnee National Forest is just five miles away.
What’s coming up: Pawpaw, the largest native tropical fruit in the United States, is being harvested by Scratch. It looks like an avocado, but tastes like a banana and mango custard. The most successful beer they’ve made is a dry-hopped farmhouse beer that starts sour, then is dryhopped after 24 hours to enhance the tropical nature of this fruit. The result is a lightly tart, refreshing, farmhouse beer.
What we’re drinking: The barrel-aged strawberry sour caught our eye immediately, as well as a strong (8.8%) elderberry ale that has a “bready, caramel malt character with a robust stone-fruit character.” Want even more ingenuity? They have a blonde helles bock that’s brewed in a copper kettle over a wood fire. We’re talking entirely seasonal stuff here, which is a refreshing concept.
From the brewery: “We really started this brewery to convey a sense of place in beer. Nestled in the woods like we are, for us, our sense of place is the Shawnee National Forest, with beautiful trees, mushrooms and plants growing all around us. We want everything to smell and taste like our part of the woods in Southern Illinois, and that’s really our inspiration behind our beer and what we do.” — Co-owner Marika Josephson