Thanks to its close proximity to Mount Bogong and the ski slopes of Falls Creek, Mount Beauty is always a popular destination during winter. And in 2023, there's another reason to spend time in the small High Country town: Mount Beauty has doubled its number of local breweries.
Mountain Monk Brewery launched in the town late last year and joins Crank Handle in the picturesque Kiewa Valley. The craft brewery had been a dream for the Bellman family for a number of years after they took over the West Peak Hotel in 2017.
At that point, the local watering hole had been shut for around three years; the previous owners had looked to redevelop the site into an aged care facility, although locals weren't overly keen on the possibility of losing the pub forever.
"That didn't come off,” Mick Bellman told The Crafty Pint. “And, eventually, after three years, it came back on the market. As soon as I got wind that it was going back on the market, I made an offer.”
At the time, he was living in Sydney, but his family were eager for the tree change. What's more, Mount Beauty had played an important role in the history of the Bellman family (many of whom can be seen in the photo above on canning day).
“My grandfather worked up the mountain,” Mick says. “It was always our holiday home.
"My cousin, who's a part-owner, grew up here. My brother now lives here, my sister lives here, and my mom and dad live here.”
While they'd always planned to open a brewery, they initially focused their attention on reviving the West Peak as a pub and restaurant. After COVID-related delays, they installed their 1,000-litre Brewtique system in 2022 in what had been an outside smoker's area; by the end of the year, they were brewing.
Completing that part of the picture is another local: head brewer Anthony Brewergray, who assures us that's his real name (which seems to be some strong evidence of normative determinism).
Anthony already knew the Bellmans through the local cricket club and as the family were drawing up plans for the brewery, Anthony decided to make the move from teaching to brewing.
“I was thinking about it for about the year," he says, "and then I mustered up the courage, took the leap and said, 'Look, I’d love to work with you guys.'"
To find out more about Mountain Monk and their beers, with asked Anthony and Mick to join us for the latest in our Who Brews...? series.
Mountain Monk Brewery
Who are you?
Mick: I'm Mick Bellman and I am a part-owner and brewer at Mountain Monk Brewers. My brother Steve, cousin Matt and I bought West Peak Hotel a couple of years ago, and installed our dream brewhouse late last year.
I am also currently a project manager for hospital builds in NSW, while juggling brewing commitments.
Anthony: I'm Anthony Brewergray and I brew Mountain Monk beers with Mick. I was a secondary school teacher for 15 years, a homebrewer for about nine years, and an avid visitor to craft breweries all over Victoria and overseas. I am absolutely loving my career change!
Where do you brew?
At West Peak Hotel, Mount Beauty, in our newly installed Brewtique brewhouse.
Why do you brew?
It’s fun, it doesn’t feel like a job, and we get to experiment with great ingredients.
Was there a beer or a moment that set you on the path to becoming a brewer?
Mick: I just got sick of stock standard monopoly beers, which people only drink because it’s institutional, even though it tastes like shit.
Anthony: I visited family friends in Perth, sat in the Little Creatures bar in Fremantle, stared at all the fermenters and beer lines, and thought: "How cool would it be to try this out?"
What’s the inspiration behind the brewery's name?
Mick: My wife, Stephanie, is German, where our holidays in Germany introduced me to really interesting European monk beers such as Augustiner-Bräu. We learnt how important monks were to the world’s beer culture, and were inspired to create a beer culture of our own in our mountain town.
What beer in your lineup best represents you and why?
Our Mountain Monk Pale Ale. Easydrinking, cruisy ABV, sessionable, perfect for sipping in our beer garden on summer days – this brew meets the laid-back country vibes we’re all about.
If you could have any person in the world join you on a brew day, who would it be, and why?
Phil Jameson – we both love Grinspoon, seen them live a heap of times, and reckon Phil would have some wild stories to tell while we’re mashing in.
If anyone drops in on brew day, what are they most likely to hear blasting from the speakers?
90s Aussie alt classics like early Spiderbait albums, Jebediah – and of course, the Grinners!
What beers are in your fridge right now?
Mick: BentSpoke Crankshaft IPA, Mitta Saison and King River Altbier.
Anthony: La Sirène Praline Stout and some of my dodgy homebrews.
What would be your desert island beer of choice?
Mick: BentSpoke Crankshaft IPA. This beer inspires my IPA recipes.
Anthony: Murphy’s Stout – great memories when touring Ireland.
You can visit both West Peak Hotel and Mountain Monk by heading to 1 Lakeside Avenue, Mount Beauty. You'll find them alongside 1300-plus and counting breweries and good beer venues in the Crafty Pint app, designed to help beer lovers find their nearest good beer wherever they are.