girl + cheeky monkey

A visit to the newest brewery to call Margaret River home – Cheeky Monkey – with a brief stop over at the first – Bootleg – and that’s what I would call a pretty successful day!

4259 Caves Road, Margaret River
Open Daily from 10am – 6pm
(08) 9755 9555

I appear to be developing some sort of animal theme with this post and the earlier one about Mountain Goat but we won’t focus on that …

Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery is the latest edition to the growing number of craft breweries who call the Margaret River, predominately known for being a wine region, their home. They opened in early May after a few hurdles regarding fears of yeast contamination with neighbouring wineries but judging by their Facebook page and the many happy smiling faces I saw, they have been a welcome addition to the region.

Last weekend my boyfriend and I decided it was about time to check it out so we jumped in the car and headed towards Margaret River. On the way we realised we were coming up on Puzey Road and the irresistible allure of a stopover at Bootleg Brewery was too much to refuse!

We couldn’t have chosen two more different Bootlegs to indulge in. Whilst my boyfriend opted for his favourite, Black Market IPA, I went for the new Bootleg Apple Cider (5% abv); it’s crisp and bitter and very Granny Smith apple and it might seem strange but one of the things I liked the most was the fact it wasn’t overly carbonated, making it easy drinking rather than feeling full from just a glass. The Black Market IPA, as always, was as good as ever.

The two extremes of Bootleg – Black Market IPA pint versus Apple Cider middy

With a visit to the first microbrewery in the Margaret River wine region under our belts we did a hop, skip and a jump to the newest – Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery.

It was apparent when we drove in that we would need to park in the overflow parking. Having parked a fair distance from the brewery, a few things became apparent. There are a couple of compulsory items when you have a brewery in the South West – 1. A body of water and 2. A children’s playground. I don’t disagree with either of these – both make complete sense, it’s just funny how they have become mandatory items. Cheeky Monkey’s aquatic effort also has a little jetty that seems to attract kids out to stare down into the water. On this particular day it was also the home of just one little duck; we jokingly wondered if we would find that his friends had found themselves as part of the menu.  The Cheeky Monkey playground doubles as a landmark; its big and green (didn’t mean to make it sound Hulk-like) and easily spotted as you drive along Caves Road. Its a whole other world in there for the kids to get happily lost in.

Yep – that’s one big playground!

We hit the bar and were promptly served by a very friendly guy named Rob. We confessed to being first timers and a good chat about their beers started. I liked that he didn’t default into new-customer-tell-them-about-all-beers strategy, instead asking us about the beers we were keen on trying or wanting to know more about. It was a conversation, not a staff member talking at us.

Not the same sort of monkey bars I played on when I was a kid

We were going to be having lunch so I decided to start with a Hatseller Pilsner (4.8% abv), made with 100% New Zealand hops, to work my way into something bigger with food. Rob gave us a taster first and we were surprised at the big characters, much more going on than your regular run of the mill pilsner, a characteristic Rob put down to the beer sitting for two weeks on yeast, allowing it to develop more complexity and depth. It had some nice citrus and fruit notes with a strong crisp, bitter finish; I was very pleased with my first Cheeky Monkey brew. My boyfriend drove head first into the Hagenbeck, a 5.8% abv Belgian IPA; although considering he started on Bootleg Black Market IPA I guess it wasn’t that big a dive! Made with Belgian yeast and dry hopped, it was a nice divergence from the mostly American styled IPAs that have been dominating our fridge. There was some nice banana aromas and flavours, spices that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and strong tropical hops.

Hatseller Pilsner & Hagenbeck Belgian IPA

Like the other breweries I’ve visited recently it’s a service style where the bar is for getting your drinks and there is a separate counter for ordering food. It does mean that the time between ordering your beer and taking a gulp is no longer than 60 seconds but the wait to order food, during peak times, is a much longer. Whilst I am not necessarily an advocate for this style of service, it’s not all doom and gloom as the short wait allows me the chance to look around and absorb other parts of the venue and check out the food specials. I did, however, feel sorry for the customers I saw who had not realised they needed to know their table numbers.

Inside Cheeky Monkey
So that’s what the inside for a monkey looks like …

I had placed our food order so it was now time to chose our second round of beers. I went for the Traveling Monk – a mid-strength Red Ale, and my boyfriend couldn’t resist the ‘Brewer’s Choice’ Souther Wailer, a Black IPA. It’s the most cheeky of the beers at a belly-warming 6.4% abv, with pronounced roastiness and hop bitterness without drowning out the tropical fruit and citrusy flavours. Having now tried four of the range we agreed the Traveling Monk was our favourite. At 3.5% the Cheeky Monkey’s have produced an ale they say proudly follows in the footsteps of beers like Rogers’ Amber Ale (3.5% amber ale) and other similar styles to showcase that a big abv isn’t a necessity. The Traveling Monk boasts aromas of orange and hops, it’s appearance is nothing short of gorgeous deep amber and flavours of sweet malt, marmalade and fresh hops are delightful.

Food arrived and we tucked in to the three dishes we’d selected to share; they were all seafood as we have been doing a lot of home cooking lately, and enjoying every minute of it, so it’s important when we go out we order food we couldn’t make at home. With that in mind we chose the Marinated Fremantle Sardines, Squid with Wasabi Aioli and the Crab Bocadillo.

The Marinated Fremantle Sardines were a special for the day that we had chosen because the Chilli Mussels had sold out and it fitted with our seafood theme. They were beautifully marinated; the sharp flavours of the sardines going well with crisp spanish onion and peppery rocket, served on toasted bread.

Marinated Fremantle Sardines
with Rocket, Cherry Tomatoes, Spanish Onion on Toasted Bread

We both love squid and we both love wasabi aioli so it’s probably not a surprise the Squid with Wasabi Aioli was our favourite dish and we would have happily added more wasabi to the mix. Crispy coated squid with fresh lemon squeezed on, I know it’s not an uncommon dish these days but it doesn’t make it any less delicious. The squid was perfectly cooked and it was nice to get two generous wedges of lemon to squeeze.

Squid with Wasabi Aioli with Fresh Lemon

The Crab Bocadillos were interesting with the contrast between the crisp coleslaw and tempura battered soft shell crab.

It was also a little funny to be eating what is very similar to a burger and having little legs sticking out the side of it! The lime and pickled yellow chilli aioli added a very subtle tanginess to the dish that went really well with the crab. Whilst we enjoyed the Squid with Wasabi Aioli the most, we had the most fun with the Crab Bocadillos because you’re never too old to play with your food …

Being silly with Cherry Tomatoes

We were comfortable sitting outside and being a couple of big kids and I guess that in itself says a lot about a venue. What also stood out was seeing a couple of kids kicking a footy around and, perhaps inevitably, it sailed up and onto the roof. Perhaps ten minutes, if that, passed before we saw a guy with a ladder prop it up against the side of the building and retrieve it. From where we were sitting it wasn’t clear if he was a Cheeky Monkey employee or just a punter, either way, I think it says something positive about the venue. If he was an employee, to take the time to fetch a kids footy on a Sunday afternoon is pretty decent. If he was a punter I think it’s nice that no manager stormed out shouting things about occupational health and safety (though the ex-bar manager in me might see the situation alternatively ending with incident reports and a set of crutches but that’s mostly due to my own disturbing level of incoordination).

Our first contact at Cheeky Monkey, Rob, was knowledgable, passionate and friendly; if you ran a bar you’d want as many Robs as you could get your hands on. They are produced great beers, tasty food and all in a setting with lots of different seating styles for your mood or occasion. I will happily be going back to Cheeky Monkey soon to try the Pale Ale ‘Old Reliable’ and the ciders that I missed tasting on this first visit. Oh and great name, love the name.

Epic Larger + French Lamb Cutlets

Since my last trip to the International Beer Shop, my boyfriend and I have been slowly making our way through the stash of great beers. We decided to crack open the Epic Larger and cook up some French Lamb Cutlets for dinner which we had marinated in what you may call an “overdose” of seeded mustard and rosemary.

Since my last trip to the International Beer Shop my boyfriend and I have been slowly making our way through a stash of great beers. We decided to crack open the Epic Larger and cook up some French Lamb Cutlets for dinner which we had marinated in what you may call an “overdose” of seeded mustard and rosemary.

Some time ago my boyfriend had the idea to make yorkshire puddings when I was cooking a beef stew for dinner. We soon discovered yorkshire puddings was essentially flour, milk and a heck of a lot of oil. No wonder they tasted so good! We decided we’d try making them again for the lamb and tweaked the recipe slightly to use less oil and more butter. The result was even tastier and highly addictive; we’d made little ones using a very shallow mini-muffin tin and by the end of the meal the full dozen were gone.

Our sides for the lamb cutlets were a salad and some hash browns, keeping it simple but very tasty. Hash browns seem to fall into that ‘irresistible’ category of foods that if I see them I just have to have them; that list currently also includes pork belly, sweet potato and prosciutto.

Dinner was seriously tasty. The lamb cutlets were perfectly cooked and there is something really great about eating with your hands and off the bone, almost like it enhances the whole experience by getting your hands dirty! The marinade had plenty of garlic and the new organic seeded mustard we had bought made us realise that not all mustards are created equal.

Epic Larger not only has a great name but is a pretty great beer. Epic Beer comes to us from New Zealand  and according to the website the name has three references – epic flavours and aromas, the epic journey it takes to get to New Zealand and the epic challenge in breaking through a beer category that’s dominated by a couple of big names and a reputation that’s connected to beer-guzzling fat guys scratching themselves on building sites. The Epic Larger is an Imperial Pilsner, so basically take your run of the mill pilsner and make it bigger … do this a few more times and that’s kinda what we are talking about. I love the marriage of flavours in this beer, drinking a lot like an American Pale Ale in terms of big hops but there is a definite crisp, light, pilsner mouth feel about it. It’s a little on the sweeter side with fresh citrus and tropical notes together with pronounced bitterness. I can now add this to the growing list of Epic beers I have enjoyed.

We sat down to dinner and it might not have been the epitome of beer + food matching but had a really yummy meal and a fantastic beer …

Epic Larger
8.5% abv
70 IBU
Malt – Weyermann Pilsner
Hops – NZ Pacific Jade, NZ Kohatu, US Liberty, US Tettnang, US Santiam

Mustard + Rosemary Marinade

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic

2 large garlic cloves, finely diced

Handful of Rosemary

2 big-ass tablespoons seeded mustard

Yorkshire Puddings

We made ours in a mini-muffin tray so they were little and cute however it was somewhat of a dangerous exercise with a decently high risk of being burned by hot oil. I am sure there is a better way to do this but so far we are unscathed …

1 cup plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg

Put a blob of butter and some oil into each pocket in the tray and put into a hot oven. Meanwhile whisk together egg and milk, gradually adding flour. Whisk lots and lots. Put a spoonful into each pocket once it’s sufficiently/scarily hot. Try not to burn yourself with hot oil. Return to oven for a while and look in on it careful, you’ll soon know when they are ready!

Nøgne Ø + International Beer Shop

International Beer Shop + Kjetil Jikiun, Head Brewer of Nøgne Ø + 4 great Nøgne Ø beers = a happy beer girl

Kjetil Jikiun from Nøgne ø + Me
Nøgne ø … the brewery from Norway that refuses to compromise, committed to taste, committed to craft beer

This is the first sentence you see on the Nøgne Ø website. I like it’s simplicity and directness. There’s no messing around here – it’s not sunshine and lollipops it’s just damn fine beer. Their beers, from the ones I have experienced so far, certainly seem to reflect these elements too. If you have time, read through the story behind Nøgne Ø. It is an interesting read because it feels like a real story from a human being instead of a marketing spiel, edited and changed to a more romantic version of events. You could almost be sitting beside Kjetil Jikiun (Founder, Head Brewer, Owner and All Round Nice Guy) enjoying a beer and listening to the history of the brewery unfold on the bar table. As a side note, he is described in the website as “the bearded giant”. Since it was pretty close to the first thing I thought when I met him, I thought that was worth mentioning.

The International Beer Shop played hosted to Kjetil Jikiun on Monday night for a Nøgne Ø Tasting and Tap Takeover, an hour of beer talk and sampling of four of their beers. With almost 20 beers in year round production and countless other special, seasonal and collaboration brews it was a delight to taste a nice cross section of their different offerings.

  • India Saison
  • Brown Ale
  • Kollaborator
  • #500 Imperial IPA
I wanted to take photos but it proved rather tricky. I had tasting notes in one hand and beer in the other and I didn’t fancy drawing attention to myself as I tried juggling them. For those who know me, hand/eye coordination doesn’t spring to mind as one of my strong points. You’ll just have to head down to The International Beer Shop (or even shop online!) and grab them to see and try for yourselves. In the mean time, perhaps I can tempt you further with a brief run down on how beautiful these beers are.
India Saison – in collaboration with Victorian brewery Bridge Road Brewers
I first had this a few months ago and recycled the bottle for flowers I was given. Trying it the second time around I was struck by how spicy it was, I didn’t remember that from the first time! It is balanced out very nicely with tropical notes from fresh Australian hops and cheekily weighs in at 7.5% ABV.
Brown Ale – one of their regulars
The carbonation was bigger than I had expected and was a pleasant surprise, giving a delightfully light and playful mouth feel. Putting my nose in the glass reminded me of opening a fresh bag of coffee beans. Spicy and malty and delicious.
#500 Imperial IPA – another of their regulars
Imperial IPA. There’s something great about this style, taking a IPA – a bigger version of Pale Ales – and then just making it bigger again which is great for my already beaten up taste buds. As the name suggests, it’s a celebratory brew, made to signify the 500th batch of ale. It’s nothing short of slap-you-in-the-face big, heaving with hops and bitterness. With the recent explosion of New Zealand hops around, other hops heads might recognise the Nelson Sauvin hop notes in there with very unsubtle fruit thanks to the dry hopping.
Nogne O Kollaborator – in collaboration with Ægir, a fellow Norwegian craft brewer.
It’s a DoppelBock, doppel = strong and bock = lager so the style becomes simple math. Rich, boozy with lots of dark fruits. It’s got great thick texture and just begs to be sipped on whilst reading a good book in winter. Or, in the case of my boyfriend and I last night, devoured in gulps with rich blue cheese and exclaiming how great the two go together!
Kjetil Jikiun at International Beer Shop
This is what happens when I visit the International Beer Shop