The Monks Of Margs

The Monks Of Margs

January 6th, 2014 by Crafty Pint

Walking into the brewhouse at Colonial Brewing in Margaret River there is an unmistakably familiar atmosphere, one that is probably unique considering it’s a relatively new brewing team. Paul Wyman (above left) has only just joined as assistant brewer while Justin Fox (above middle) has been in the role of head brewer for less than a year. Yet together, alongside brewery manager Richard Moroney (above right), the three of them represent three generations of head brewers at The Monk, the Fremantle brewpub where all have worked before uniting in the south west.

With this shared history, as well as an immense passion for WA craft beer, it’s exciting to see them working together.

“It’s like we’ve all shared the same girlfriend,” says Richard with a grin, bringing hearty laughs from Justin and Paul.

“But I kept her a lot longer than the other two,” Justin adds with a cheeky smile.

With debate over who was the better boyfriend (or brewer) cast aside, all three speak of The Monk with a great deal of respect and fondness, not only for their own days in the brewery but what The Monk represents in the WA craft beer scene.

“You can get in there and really hone what you know about brewing, then move on to your next adventure so the next person who wants to make a name for themselves can come in,“ says Justin. "That’s what the Sail used to be. Anyone who was anyone in the industry did their two or three years at the Sail. Now it’s gone and The Monk has kinda taken that now.”

Where once Fremantle was the jewel of WA’s craft beer crown, the south west is giving the port town a run for its money these days with the calibre of the region’s beers as well as the burgeoning number of breweries. According to Richard “the south west has developed into the new Freo” – a big call that he backs up.

“We’ve got some good talent down here and you’re getting that second wave of brewers coming through the industry now. You’re seeing the beer quality pick up, you’re seeing the diversity go up, you’re seeing the excitement, knowledge and energy all pick up and that’s a really exciting thing.”

Of course the decision to leave The Monk and move to Margaret River wasn’t an easy one for the most recent arrival.

“Oh, it was horrible,“ says Paul. "It was like breaking up with a girlfriend.” However, the opportunity to work with Justin and Richard proved to be a pretty big drawcard. “Justin is an amazing brewer and Richo has laid the foundation.

“I’ve achieved a lot in my first couple of years but I still have a lot more to learn so it made sense to come down here and give it a shot in a bigger brewhouse, learning new techniques and opening my mind more.”

While the Colonial brewhouse is significantly bigger than kit Paul is used to at The Monk, the style of brewing remains the same with both brewers seeking that all important consistency.

“I think that’s the biggest word in craft brewing – consistency. You want each batch to taste exactly the same,” Paul says.

“You look at the big guys who are doing it well and you can pick up a [Mountain Goat] Hightail and know what you’re drinking. You don’t get any hit and miss,” adds Justin.

For time being, however, Paul is adapting to life on the new, bigger brewhouse.

“In the first three months you’re just learning your new girlfriend, learning what she likes, what she doesn’t like. The things you used to do to your old girlfriend don’t work on your new girlfriend!” Justin explains amid laughter.

Along with consistency they’re also focused on their quest to “make craft beer for everyone and make it inclusive”. A big part of this is their Project Beer series, where limited release beers are not labelled with any style or description. As a result they are given funny names like Oscar in the hope the approach encourages people to think about whether they like the beer or not instead of looking for flavours the label says are in there.

As for what’s next on the Project Beer line up, “that’s secret squirrel business” according to Paul, but there are future plans that are not so secretive: Colonial is hoping to extend the Project Beer series in other ways such as setting up a small pilot system in the beer garden of sister venue, The Raffles in Perth, and getting people involved with the brew itself.

More tanks will be arriving soon too as production continues to grow. Since Justin started in April 2013, they’ve brewed six brand new beers and demand for kegs is steadily increasing. Expansion plans are also taking place further afield as Justin assists in the construction of a new brewery in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Stay tuned for more Colonial news updates as they showcase more Project Beer releases, announce brew-related events and continue to build in Victoria. In the meantime, the best move would be to get down to Colonial’s home in Margs and take a peek into the brewhouse to see just how things are progressing for Paul and his new girlfriend. And if Justin is happy sharing.

Pia is the girl in girl+beer and also tweets as CraftyPintWA.

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