1) Can you tell us a little bit about your brewery and the beer you produce?
The Monk Brewery & Kitchen is the brain child of some beer-loving locals. Its organic architectural design all ties in with The Monk’s philosophy which can be distilled to ‘Authentic Beer, Honest Food and Real People’. The wood used for tables and terrace fencing is all recycled from an old Freo Rail Line, and the Restaurant features artwork and photos from local artists who we support. The Monk is relatively young, having only been in operation since April 2010. However it is becoming synonymous with Fremantle and the Craft Brewery scene.
The beers we produce are simple, good quality and traditional in style. We have beers that are light and easy to drink, and also beers that are more challenging for the palate and bring new experiences to the patrons. The beers match perfectly with our food – unpretentious, good quality and fresh.
2) How did you get involved in this industry?
Paul – I grew up in Queensland, so the first beers I drank were mainly mid-strength lagers, low on flavour but doable with the need to hydrate during the sticky weather! I’d worked in pubs and bottle shops for a fair while, and through that applied for a job at CUB as a merchandiser. It was about that time when I discovered that beer could have more flavour. Matilda Bay’s Fat Yak was very different to what was currently considered ‘beer’ in Queensland at the time. After my interest was sparked I went around trying as many beers as I could (it’s a tough job but someone had to do it). I was fortunate enough to meet Scott Vincent, head brewer at Matilda Bay, and Jeremy Halse, now head brewer at White Rabbit. These guys really opened my eyes to what could be done with beer and from then on I was absolutely hooked. I decided to take the plunge and move to WA to do the Edith Cowan Uni Brewing Course. Landing the job at the Monk with Steve who was also studying in my course, was exactly what I had hoped for when making the move to the Wild West!
Steve – I always had a passion for good beer and was one of those people continually looking to taste beers I never had before. Growing up in Western Australia had its advantages. I remember trying a Little Creatures Pale Ale when it was still a relatively small brewery, and being pleasantly surprised with how much flavour it had. Just before completing a medical science degree, I lost all interest in the industry I was about to get into. Looking for inspiration, I realised that brewing and beer could be a career and not just a passionate hobby. I finished a multi-disciplinary Science degree studying predominately Viticulture and Oenology units, and then did the Post graduate Diploma of Brewing at Edith Cowan University with Paul under the tutelage of Hugh Dunn. Since then I haven’t looked back.
3) about your region and the advantages that it bring for your brewery to be located where you are.
We’re located on what is known as the ‘cappuccino strip’ in Fremantle. We’ve got one of the biggest frontages on South Terrace, which is always awash with festivals, and big crowds of people on the weekends. Being located in the heart of Fremantle’s entertainment and restaurant district definitely keeps us busy with passers-by, but we also have many regulars. We’ve also got the advantage of being in arguably the strongest Craft Beer spot in Australia – Fremantle was the birthplace of Craft Brewing as we know it; the Sail and Anchor started it all during the 1980’s. Matilda Bay also had a prominent presence for a long time at North Fremantle, and Little Creatures led the second wave of Craft Beer in Australia. Today, Fremantle is full of breweries and Craft Beer friendly venues. The Monk is one of these and is a Fremantle must-go spot as its beers gain interstate and even some international recognition with its growing list of awards. Locals are becoming more and more interested in tasting different types of beers, and tourists are fascinated by the local brews. Fremantle is always buzzing with both locals and visitors so that’s what makes this location so fantastic and unique.
4) How do you feel you can differentiate yourselves from other beer across Australia?
For starters we fall into the Craft Beer niche – we’re small and produce and sell everything onsite. Because you can’t get our beers anywhere else, we have a loyal band of regulars who come and see us when the craving hits! It’s great to have people that love the beer we make.We are also very artisan for a brewery – we have a huge variety of malts and hops that we draw on to create our beers. Rather than making beers from stock we may already have, we get an idea, build a recipe, thenbuy quality ingredients to make them a reality. We don’t compromise the quality of the ingredients we use as we know the better the ingredients the better the beer. This goes right down to the water source. We don’t add any preservatives or nasty stuff. We brew beer the way we believe it should be done.
Where we feel we separate ourselves from the Craft Beer pack is volume. Despite being so small as far as brewing space, and brewery equipment size – we still manage to produce 7 regular beers plus seasonals, totalling around 100,000 Litres a year which is much bigger than microbreweries with similar set ups. It’s a big juggling act, but we manage to do it without compromising on quality. The brewery also has a unique location, right in the middle of the venue. We are surrounded by an open plan kitchen and bar, which is in turn surrounded by customer seating. We are very proud to have an open door policy where beer lovers can knock on our door and catch up with the us (the Brewers) personally and have a sticky beak at what we’re up to! No secrets here!
5) Tell us now about your beers, what is their influence, flavor, body, style…
We are very proud of our beers to say the least, and not just because of the many awards they win (ok, ok… that has a little bit to do with it)- but we can also physically see people enjoying them everyday through the brew house window! The same way musicians get a sense of satisfaction from entertaining their audience, we get a kick out of people savouring our beers! We have been likened to proud parents…
We do a combination of beers – As we mentioned earlier our beers range from light, easy session beers through to heavier and more complex ones. At a glance the beers are as follows:
Mild – 3.5% – Voted as the Best Reduced Alcohol Beer at the 2011 Australian International Beer Awards. This mid-strength has tons of flavour, made in a German Leichtbier style. Clean,crisp, fresh Saaz hop aroma. So good, it’s not just for drivers!
Kölsch – 4.9% – The German Ale pretending to be a lager, this lightly fruity beer has subtle spicy German hop characters making it an ideal session beer.
Wheat – 6.0% – An Adaptation of a Belgian Wheat beer, the medium bodied beer is pale in colour, served unfiltered to best showcase the fresh, fruity characters, and hints of coriander.
Pale – 5.0% – An Australian Style Pale ale, unfiltered with a smooth bitterness and easy drinking finish. 100 % Aussie hops makes our Pale one of our favourites.
Rauch – 5.3% – A traditional style from Bamburg, this beer pours robust desert orange in colour. It’s strong smoke flavours are balanced with rounded malt fruitiness and a moderate bitterness. Surprising!
Chief- 6.3% – Our big, bold American Style India Pale Ale (IPA); Citra and Cascade are used at judicious levels for a powerful tropical aroma, capped off with a malty backbone and hardy 75 IBU bitterness. Our Chief recently made it into the Critic’s Choice top 100 beers in Australia.
Porter – 4.7% – Never be afraid of the dark! Our Porter has a smooth chocolate nose, with hint of roast coffee. The palate is soft, with a mild bitterness, this is a dark ale that keeps you coming back for more.
We also squeeze out seasonal brews based on what takes our fancy or imagination – Previous beers include our super popular Coconut Stout, Traditional Oktoberfest Marzen, Single Hop Nelson Sauvin Amber, Ginger’d Beer and our latest ‘baby’, Sweet Potato Porter.
6) What kind of system do you brew on, how big is it, and where did it come from?
We have a 6 Hectolitre DME brewplant, running a double jacketed steam kettle. We are rather limited by space, so we currently only have what we like to call ‘3 and a half’ 1200 L fermenters. The system was bought from Nail Brewing when the equipment was moved out of the Old Bobby Dazzlers site on Murray Street in Perth. The system was originally engineered in Canada.
7) What are your top 3 favourite beer styles?
Paul – This never fails to be the most difficult question to answer, and I rethink it every time! Ok its close but probably Brown Ales, Hefeweizens and Belgian IPAs.
Steve- That is a tough question- you wouldn’t ask a mother to choose her favourite child?! If I was pushed to really choose – IPA (in their many permutations), Porters and Belgians (Trippels, Quads, Lambicsetc)
8. If you were only allowed to brew one style for the rest of your life, what style would you brew and why?
Paul – Brown Ales as you can make them either malty or hoppy and there’s alot of room to move within the style. It would never get boring!
Steve – Lambics, because you need a lifetime to perfect them. The typical traditional Lambic is a blend of three different years of beers. Plus the yeast works in wonderfully strange ways – you’d need a lifetime to study them!
9) How do you see the brewery industry in Australia? What excites you?
It’s a super exciting time to be in the Australian Craft Beer industry. We’re seeing the worldwide trend echoed in Australia – big breweries are slowly declining, while Craft Beer continues to grow. It’s probably a combination of things. There seems to be an under swell of people questioning what they are eating and drinking, looking for more local, better quality, ‘artisan’ products. We’ve been very lucky in Australia to avoid most of the economic uncertainty of the rest of the world, which helps when you’re pushing a premium product.
Overall, we think more people are just ‘getting it’. Not too long ago, Australia was split down state lines and you drank what was your state’s iconic beer. Now there’s more choice, domestic and imported Craft Beers are becoming more popular and people are really starting to find that beer can have manydifferent flavours and is being thought of in the same terms as wine has been for many years. There are different varieties, different tastes and different qualities.
The Craft Beer scene should continue to grow as more people become aware of great and interesting beers, aided by events such as Good Beer Week, the continued output of great Craft Beer breweries and multitudes of Craft Beer festivals being run all over the country. We’re very excited to be involved!
10) Now time to promote your beer! Invite our beer fanatics to try your beer and tell us why your brewery rocks!
I’d strongly urge everyone to come down if you’re ever in WA. Take a tour and check out the wonderful history of Freo (beer and otherwise), then pop in for a few delicious beers and some great Mediterranean style food. Also don’t forget we have an ‘open-brew door’ policy, where any of our customers can pop into the brewery to say hello and meetus personally (autographs are available on request haha!) We would be happy to talk you through our beer making process. Don’t forget to try one of our tasting trays- so you can sample all of our brews. The Monk is going from strength to strength in the brewing industry and we would love for you to be a part of it.