Fremantle will forever deserve a place in the hearts of Australian craft beer lovers as it was here that the Sail & Anchor pub with its in-house Anchor Brewery first challenged the dominance of the big brewers and, subsequently, Matilda Bay and Little Creatures were born. Today, the coastal town is a must for any beer tourist, not only because it's a beautiful place to visit but because it's crammed with quality craft beer venues, including – since 2007 – the Monk Brewery & Kitchen.
The Monk's first beer left the brewery in January 2008 shortly after the restaurant opened; since then something of a who's who of WA brewers has made its way through The Monk, including Justin Fox and Paul Wyman who both followed successful stints in Freo by moving south to Colonial. In 2014, former Mountain Got brewer Craig Eulenstein headed back to his home state to take up the head brewer role and promptly followed in his predecessors' success by nabbing a couple of golds at the Australian International Beer Awards.
He also set about reworking the brewery's core range, slimming it down to a somewhat flexible foursome: Common, Reserved, Extra and Vintage that are distinctly different from each other, not tied too closely to a particular style and likely to evolve around the year. He's also been playing with barrels too. As ever, if you want to taste them, you pretty much have to travel to Freo as kegs very, very rarely appear outside the venue.
Craig's arrival hasn't been the only change since 2014. Former head brewer (and Crafty Pint's resident beer food guru) Mitch from Beersine has returned as head chef to the place that first inspired him to start exploring beer and food pairing and cooking with beer. And Matt Marinich has returned as venue manager after stints at The Quarie, the Sail & Anchor and Bob's Bar.
The new look sees the Monk decked out with lavish brown leather booths, open planned dining and repurposed 90 year-old wooden sleepers. Owners Tom Brooking and Janelle Mikulic are architect and interior designer and wanted to offer locals and tourists a warmer feel. Another new addition is The Barrel Room, which will house two long tables made from the sleepers as well as 30 barrels for the brewery's ageing and souring program.