Invite your average pundit to give three words associated with ‘Margaret River’ and nine out of ten will probably tell you wine, food and surfing. But the ever-expanding township and surrounding winery-rife region also plays host to a number of breweries, most notably two of the champions at the 2011 Australian International Beer Awards, Bootleg Brewery and Cowaramup Brewery. Impressive though the Margaret River beer posse is, the town is most certainly big enough for one more. Enter the new young gun, Cheeky Monkey.
Cheeky Monkey Brewery is at present just a construction site on Caves Road and is owned by Murray Burton, founder of Ferngrove Wines. The brewery is currently sans fermentation tanks, tap lines or even a completed roof, but is on track to open its doors to the public in December 2011.
The brewery’s path has not been without roadblocks. An early microbrewery development proposal by the property’s owners was blocked by the local council shire, after an adjoining biodynamic winery raised concerns about cross-contamination of yeasts. Unhappy with the decision, property owner Burton appealed the decision at the State Administrative Tribunal, confident that they could put sterilisation and containment measures into place to prevent yeast escaping into nearby wineries.
Fortunately for beer-lovers, the decision to block the development was overturned by the Tribunal in October 2010, and the construction process began. The proposal rejection and subsequent appeal not only set construction back more than a year, but was also a costly expense, one that Burton says few startup breweries could afford. If the appeal had been rejected Burton says it might have set a precedent that could well have stopped the growth of future breweries in the region.
With the roadblock clear and construction well underway, the brewery has lately made its most expensive investment yet, but one that will yield big returns: a head brewer.
Jared Proudfoot, a Margaret River local, brings with him an impressive brewing pedigree, having just returned from 18 months brewing with Brewdog in Fraserburgh, Scotland. Brewdog, founded in 2007, is the enfant terrible of the UK brewing scene and is famous for their boundary-pushing beers and edgy marketing campaigns. After 18 months on their brewing staff, Proudfoot is ready to bring a little of the punk edge to the Margaret River region.
“I owe a lot to [Brewdog],” he says. “They took me on as a novice brewer; worked my way up the ranks and left as a more senior member of the brewing staff.”
“Cheeky Monkey popped up on my radar so I thought I’d have a crack at it. It’s in my home town where I want to be, doing the job I want to do so it worked out really quite well.”
Although the region is already home to a number of successful breweries, Proudfoot is confident that he will be able to make Cheeky Monkey’s beers stand out.
“A lot of the breweries around here are doing very traditional kind of beers and trying to get true to style…I feel I’m probably going to be pushing a little bit more.” he told Australian Brews News.
“My influences coming from [Brewdog founder] Martin Dickie, a lot of my beers are going to be fairly hop-influenced, very flavourful, interesting and hopefully fairly exciting for people to enjoy.”
The brewery equipment is not yet ready, but Proudfoot has friends around the region willing to help him knock out pilot batches in the next few months. Once Cheeky Monkey is up and running, he will have greater flexibility to exhibit a diverse range of beers and ciders. The proposed line-up for regular production includes a hopped-up red ale at midstrength alcohol, a Kiwi pilsener brewed with 100% NZ-grown hops, as well as a Pale Ale, IPA and Stout. He is also hoping to have 2 or 3 special releases available at any one time, to entice people into regular visits.
“There should always be something new on tap for people to want to come for and hopefully it generates a bit of excitement,” he says.
Still in the formative stages, a visit to the brewery is likely to be the only way to sample the offerings. Although agreeing that setting up distribution channels for the rest of the state and country is a while away, Proudfoot is optimistic.
“As far as bottles go, down the track I’d say so… I definitely have some ambitions myself to get keg beer to a good selection of good craft beer bars. Not only in WA but also interstate.”
“I don’t like to sit still,” he goes on. “So once the shitstorm of opening up subsides, I won’t be happy just resting on my laurels, [and I] will be pretty keen to start ramping things up and looking at the interstate market.”
Cheeky Monkey Brewery is due to open in December 2011. You can stay up to date with developments on their Facebook page.