Fremantle is considered by many to be the birthplace of the modern craft beer movement in Australia as the original home to Matilda Bay (via the Sail and Anchor Pub) and of course of Australia’s most popular craft brewery, Little Creatures. Please note that I have no proof of the popularity of Little Creature so if you are one of those nit pickers don’t make a comment that you think blah blah brewery is more popular, or indeed that Little Creatures ownership means that they are no longer a craft brewery.
I was a little bit excited therefore to spend a couple of nights in Freo prior to my jaunt through the Margaret River region, more so when I realised that Freo has a lot more to offer above craft beers, it really is a very interesting city and well worth exploring for a few days.
Everyone will tell you that Little Creatures is THE place you have to go in Freo, well I’m here to tell you that it’s not the best beer choice in Freo, not by a long way. It’s okay, but if you are a beer nerd you will probably be disappointed. You can get Pale Ale, Bright Ale, Rogers, a cider and the day I was there the ‘feature’ beer was White Rabbit White Ale – all fine beers but not much there for the beer tourist.
A better choice would be the Sail and Anchor Hotel, which claims somewhere around 40 draught beers on tap (although I must admit I never found more than about twenty odd, perhaps the rest were upstairs which was a little difficult as I was travelling with Jordan who was on crutches at the time and thus good for little more than sitting and drinking). It might have been the time of day, but I found the pub a little lifeless, but I’m sure it starts jumping in the evening.
As for beer I managed to have a couple there. First up was the Gage Roads Pumpkin Ale, which was better than I expected from this ‘brew for Woolworths’ contract brewer. This beer has hints of ginger and cinnamon which wasn’t a world away from a nice pumpkin pie. I have to say I’m not hugely familiar with the style so I’m not sure if I should be tasting pumpkin, if so I didn’t, which is actually a good thing for me as I don’t like pumpkin. Anyway all in all it was a very drinkable and interesting brew – Schooner.
Next up was the ‘Sail and Anchor IPA’, which they used to brew on site they no longer do, so this is a house brew that isn’t an in house brew. In fact I’m told Sail and Anchor beers may be available quite widely in the Eastern states through Woolworths and I believe may be brewed by Gage Roads. So if all of that is true then we can consider this a complete bastardisation of the Sail and Anchor brand which were once at the forefront of the craft brewing in this country.
But getting back to the beer itself, it wasn’t a bad beer, it was true to the English IPA style, with a bit more malt that I would have expected and it was probably more akin to an American style pale ale. Schooner
That is a very long introduction to get to the highlight of the Freo beer scene which is Monk Brewery and Kitchen, conveniently located across the road from the Sail and Anchor. This is a very classy looking place, with a huge beer garden out the front. Beer is presented in a nice tasting sizes as well as the traditional WA pint and the food is sort of gastro pub/trendy cafe in style.
This place was so good we visited twice in the two days we spent in Freo. The first night I had pork belly and scallops which were nothing short of amazing and a nice Asian influence in an Aussie craft beer venue.
Beer wise the standouts where the Monk Rauch, which lived up to the billing of having big smokey flavours, it might have been the beer or it might have been the pork belly but I was getting a big smoked ham feel from it. Pint
The Monk Chief was a highly Cascade and Citra hopped ale, that had a real punch on the first sip, but then started to settle down. It was interesting in that it lacked the aromas I would associate with the Cascade and Citra, suggesting the hops had gone for bitterness rather than aroma, which might have been the wrong choice for me. It made for a good beer but I would have liked to have seen a stronger nose and perhaps a little less resin in the aftertaste. Schooner
The real standout though was The Monk Bounty Coconut Stout which somehow managed to get big strong coconut flavours in there without being gimmicky and whilst still maintaining a great mouth feel and head. Coconut beers have always been a bit of a fantasy of mine and this goes close to fulfilling it. Jug.
In fact the Bounty was so good that it was the catalyst for our return visit where we teamed it with an apple and rhubarb crumble, which would go close to being the dessert I would choose if I was on death row and offered a final meal/beer.