WORDS: Katie Taylor
Wednesday 18 July 2018
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Up in the real ale heartlands of North Yorkshire, what people really get enthused about is a great pint of bitter. Generally speaking, in Skipton where Beer Monkey Brew Co. set up shop last year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad pint. This fervour for excellent beer is what interested Ian Vart in the trade in the first place; long before Beer Monkey began, he was Operations Manager for a well-known competitor. Through his various roles in large pubco businesses - we’re talking John Smiths, Diageo and Wellington Pub Co. to name but three - Ian developed an interest in what made his local customers so invested in the humble, ever-popular blonde bitter brewed by smaller local producers.
This interest led him to open Beer Monkey Brew Co., a brewery that’s attempting to build a stile over the wall between traditional real ale fans and new, younger drinkers in North Yorkshire. With a thriving beer culture running underneath the whole area, the Skipton-based brewery sought to create a core line of products that offered solid traditional beers with a more approachable, interesting brand direction. Basically, they wanted to look cooler and more modern than their direct competitors. Opening in August 2017, the brewery began with a range of four cask beers sold in local pubs; a blonde (Blonde Rogue), a bitter (Bitter Revival), an American-style IPA (Uncle Monk’s IPA) and a Pilsner-style lager (Evolution).
A year on, now based in a sizeable industrial warehouse on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Beer Monkey has already ploughed some serious investment into their operation. Ian’s proud that as well as beer, the brewery is providing jobs for local people and he’s keen to continue growing the company to provide stability and create more jobs in the future. Even so, his current workforce seems more than sufficient, with Jamie Morrissey the Brewer on-site full-time, two apprentices working in all areas of the brewery’s processes and a Brewing Consultant called Alan Jefferies, who oversees all the beers and the team making up just some of the crew.
Jamie’s credentials are locally respected. Formerly a brewer at Copper Dragon for nine years, he’s putting his own passion for well-made beer into Beer Monkey’s standard range, as well as offering ideas for their special and seasonal beers too. Alan’s history at The Great Yorkshire Brewery also give Beer Monkey some industry kudos and a lot of top-end quality control keeping every brew grand as owt.
In early 2018, the brewery began offering the bubbly magic of keg for some of their range too, namely the supremely-popular-in-Yorkshire-and-East-Lancashire Uncle Monk’s IPA and the Evolution Pilsner. But why did they decide to go keg?
“The market wants it. It’s as simple as that,” says Ian. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is because he’s got some more news about the future of the brewery - namely a £300,000 kegging plant they’ve ordered from Germany.
“This is really exciting because it means we won’t have to rely on having our beer packaged externally and will give us the option to keg beers on small runs. We’ve already found that city centre bars much prefer keg beers so we’re looking forward to being able to give them the types of beers that our customers want.”
As well as kegging, the brewery entered the world of canning and bottling in 2018, and is now available throughout Yorkshire in supermarkets, Wetherspoons, Stonegate pubs, Co-Ops and Bierkeller bars all over the country.
“The dream is to grow, but to remain sustainable,” says Ian. “I want Beer Monkey to be able to protect the jobs of our team members and eventually not to have to rely on larger companies to sell our beer.”
So that’s Beer Monkey Brew Co., a down-to-earth, northern brewery keeping their beers real and their premises rural. We’re seeing a lot of that lately, aren’t we? Is there some sort of real ale revolution going on?
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