There's been another significant move in the local beer world with Cheeky Monkey acquiring fellow WA brewing operation Sound Brewing Co. The announcement comes less than three months after the Rockingham-based brewpub entered administration and gives Cheeky Monkey a third venue – and their first in the Perth Metro region.
For the time being, the brewpub will continue to operate under the Sound Brewing Co banner – although anyone that's visited recently will have noticed a significant increase in the volume of Cheeky Monkey beers and seltzers on offer there. In the middle of 2024, significant renovations will take place to turn it into a Cheeky Monkey venue, joining the South West brewers original home on the famed Caves Road and the taphouse at their production brewery in Vasse.
While ownership of the Rockingham venue which only opened in 2022 is changing, all employees in place when Sound Brewing Co's parent company Bragu went into voluntary administration in September have been offered the chance to continue in their roles.
"We worked pretty hard with the administrators so they could keep running the venue until the liquor licence comes through so we can retain all of the staff," Cheeky Monkey director of operations Brendan Day told The Crafty Pint.
"That was something we're pretty proud of; it created a lot more work for us but it meant nobody lost their job."
The turnaround has been a speedy one, given Sound Brewing Co only entered administration in September, but was possible because the Cheeky team had been actively seeking sites in the Greater Perth region for more than a year.
"We've been looking for a site in Perth but never really found anything that's fit the bill," Cheeky Monkey managing director Brent Burton says. "The market has changed over the past five or six years so the motivation for a venue in Perth increased.
"When this came up, we came and had a look and liked it. There's a lot of foot traffic and a lot of entertainment in this area. And part of our strategy over the next three to five years is to have numerous venues in Perth."
Brendan adds: "It's happened quickly in terms of this space, but we've been actively looking to expand our hospitality so if the right thing pops up, we're interested. We'd identified a couple of sites that could have worked, but we didn't pursue those for different reasons."
Their ability to move quickly appealed to the administrators brought in by Bragu too. They were appointed in early September, a couple of weeks after Running With Thieves entered voluntary administration. As we reported recently, that South Freo-based operation has now existed administration under a new ownership structure led by a team who were previously silent investors in the business.
"A lot of these things in business come down to timing," Brent says of their new acquisition. "We were in the right place at the right time."
The business they're taking on currently offers 24 taps that had been featuring Sound Brewing Co beers alongside other local, national and international brands. A small brew kit had been installed to focus on production of more Sound Brewing beers, although this hadn't been used to brew beer by the time administrators were called in.
While the work to turn it into a Cheeky Monkey venue is a few months away, the team has already met with architects.
"The venue is really close to hitting the mark," Brendan says. "There's a lot of really good intent but we've identified where we can make a positive impact. We're looking to increase the alfresco space and plan to physically move the bar so there's more focus on it.
"People that know what the Cheeky experience is will find it there."
Cheeky Monkey's announcement continues a trend towards consolidation and restructuring in the WA brewing industry and, indeed, across much of the country. Earlier this year, Nail purchased Billabong Brewing, while Otherside and Nowhereman became siblings under the Triple 1 Three parent brand.
The acquisition of Sound Brewing Co also echoes a push for metropolitan footprint from brewers in the South West, with Rocky Ridge announcing plans for a second venue in Perth’s northern corridor earlier this year too. And it highlights greater interest in Perth’s fringes, where thousands of drinkers remain underserviced by craftier options. Found.Lab have looked to capitalise with their brewpub in Byford, following in the footsteps of the likes of King Road Brewing and Whitelakes in opening up in the northern reaches of corridor between Perth and the popular tourist destinations to the south.
As for Rockingham's latest brewing residents, Brendan says creating Cheeky Monkey experiences is a central part of their future strategy.
"We've been working on a new employee handbook, which isn't your typical boring one," he says. "We took a lot of inspiration from BrewDog and Netflix and HubSpot, [whose handbooks] aren't just offering policy, and there's a whole page dedicated to the fact we sell experiences, we're not just selling beer.
"It might sound cheesy, but we're working on how we think people can experience our brand. Brent and myself have invested time into the experience at Caves Road. That's been open 11 years now and is in a tourism area, so it would be easy to just rest on our laurels, but we don't want to let that age out. There's good examples of people who've not continued to evolve their own space.
"We've put a lot of effort into Caves Road over recent years and are seeing the results there. It's exciting to continue that brand journey."
And it sounds like the journey could be taking another big step forward again soon.
"We have another iron or two in the fire," he says, suggesting Rockingham might not be their only Perth venue for long.