Following last year’s expansion into a new production facility, Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co has turned its original brewery into a research and development base.
Cheeky Monkey managing director Brent Burton said the focus on R&D at their original site at Caves Road was a drive towards greater levels of quality, creativity and experimentation.
“Now we’ve settled into our production brewery in Vasse, I thought it was only fair that we fire up the old brewkit here that put us on the map and turn it into something useful for the company,” he explained.
“The brewery can move forward with exciting, creative beers, and also research and develop brewing techniques that we cant experiment with, because the capacity in the production schedule is pretty tight out there out at Vasse.
“We’re going to learn a fair bit out here, and as a result of this, a few positions have opened up.”
The new program is creating jobs for the region with lead brewer and trainee brewer roles created and a logistics facilitator required. More sales people will also be hired to cover the Perth area and South West.
Cheeky Monkey limited releases
The smaller capacity brewkit at Margaret River will allow Cheeky Monkey’s brewers to invest more time in limited releases, as part of a wider strategy.
“At Vasse, production capacity is predominantly taken up by core range beers as the brewkit is a little bit too big to be punching out a limited release every other week,” explained Burton.
“The size out here is about a third of the size of the Vasse brewery and we plan to do at least 30 limited release beers here a year, so one every other week.”
While Cheeky Monkey is no stranger to limited releases, its brewers will be diversifying and increasing their limited releases, in part to gain market traction, but also give their brewers a chance to learn and embrace new techniques.
“[Limited releases] will range from sessionable easy drinking beers to crazy out-there sours, and barrel aged and triple dry hopped beers. Really the scope is wide open and we can’t wait to get back here and experiment.
“It sounds like we’re going backwards but it’s actually an exciting step forward!”
He said the Cheeky Monkey team were vital in keeping the company’s “finger on the pulse” when it came to new trends, and deciding what the schedule will be for limited releases.
“I’ve got a really talented head of brewing operations manager, Brett Newman from Little Creatures. He was an innovation brewer out there for six or seven years, and a talented national sales manager in Brendan Day. It’s amazing how switched on Brendan is in terms of trends that are happening in the brewing industry and what’s happening in America.
“We’ll all put their heads together and get out a really good limited release programme, but you can expect to see things that are on-trend at the moment, hazies and East Coast IPAs, sour beers and really develop a barrel age programme as well.”
Quality and laboratory
“Out at the production brewery everything is based around quality first and foremost, and then efficiencies,” said Burton.
“Once you start delving into the distribution of packaged beer, margins are quite slim so you have to be on top of your processes and procedures. The way you do that is perfecting them at the smaller brewery and adopting them at the other brewery.”
He said there will be a maximum of 50,000 litres coming out of their original Caves Road site, a small percentage of what will be coming out of Vasse. But he said bringing in Newman was a good step towards upscaling efficiencies and quality as well as capacity.
“[When our former head brewer left] we saw that as an opportunity to get someone in from a bigger brewery, and Brett came on board and brought in loads of procedures and processes from Little Creatures, and from that we’ve seen the quality of our beers improve batch-on-batch.
“We’re getting good numbers and shelf life from our retention stuff, the quality has increased since upscaling actually.”
Cheeky Monkey has also invested in a small laboratory at Vasse, which is aiding their efforts towards consistency in relation to quality control.
“So we’re tracking our beer from the point of mashing to the point of canning out, checking it at last 20 to 30 times along the way. So we really know what’s happening with our beer from the start to the end.”
He said a focus on quality should be part of every brewery’s strategy, and overall in the industry it is getting better, with a few exceptions, he said.
“I’d tend to say the quality is getting better, the competition is fierce so everyone has to be on their game.
“However the argument can be made that a lot of one batch, limited release batches are going out with less research gone into them, so it could be said some beers have gone backwards. But overall as an industry the quality is increasing.”
Future plans for Cheeky Monkey include focusing on the diversity of its beers, and potentially expanding into new markets.
“Over the next 3 to 5 years, we’ll be pushing hard to increase our volume, the quality of that and the creativity.
“A lot of the future plans revolve around this R&D brewery, and we’ve got a canning line at Vasse which is barely keeping up with the volumes that we’re going so eventually it will come back to Caves Road, so hopefully you’ll see a lot more of our seasonal stuff on the shelves.
“We want to brew extraordinarily creative craft beers and improve on the quality of our beers in our portfolio.
“It’s a really big year for Cheeky Monkey, as well as a lot of other craft breweries, who are expanding and growing as well. It’s a really exciting time for the industry.”