By James Atkinson

Western Australian winemaker Murray Burton has finally opened his Margaret River microbrewery, Cheeky Monkey, having successfully overcome long-running opposition by a local biodynamic winemaker.

Cheeky Monkey Brewing Company opened to the public on Saturday, having won approval to serve its own range of craft beers and ciders on-premise at the Wilyabrup microbrewery, which has licensed capacity for 450 people.

In a final bid to halt the venture, local winemaker Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines was among several objectors to the brewery's liquor licence application.

She argued that the brewery was not in the public interest due to the risk of contamination by beer yeast to the indigenous yeast population at her biodynamic winery and other neighbouring properties in the Wilyabrup Valley.

But Director of Liquor Licensing Barry Sargeant said this ground of objection was not within the scope and subject of WA's Liquor Control Act.

He said that Cullen's concerns had already been overruled by the State Administrative Tribunal, which in October 2010 found it was "extremely unlikely that brewing yeast would escape and migrate to the vineyard".

Having won its liquor licence on April 26, Cheeky Monkey wasted no time in opening its doors to the public after it was officially launched by WA Minister for Agriculture and Food, Terry Redman on Friday.

Founder Murray Burton, who also started Ferngrove winery in Frankland River, told TheShout the brewer is serving an initial range of five craft beers and two ciders, as well as his own wines.

"There are now seven or eight microbreweries in the Margaret River wine region, so we're not alone," he said.

"What we are trying to do is focus more on the entertainment that's available for young to middle-aged people with children."

Burton said this demographic of visitors to Margaret River is not particularly interested in visiting wineries to taste and purchase wine to take it away.

"They're often interested in the nice surroundings – having a couple of drinks and watching the kids play on the playground," he said.

"We tailored the way we designed the building and everything around that particular age group – that's our focus."

Burton said Cheeky Monkey has approval for packaged liquor sales at the Wilyabrup site and ultimately hopes to expand distribution of its products elsewhere.

The Shout Team

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  1. OK. So lets take the premise of the Biodynamic wine producers.
    A native yeast, which has been living and evolving in Australia for hundreds or thousands of years, adapting to local conditions.. is going to be overwhelmed by yeasts from a brewery which are selected to ferment at particular temperatures, aren’t particularly good at sporilation, and are typically of european origin, and adapted to the conditions of european climate..

    Hmmm. They are drawing a very long bow, and sounds like they are afraid of the competition. Nothing more. As for the other wineries, well they use commercially produced yeasts, and their concerns are totally moot.

  2. Hmmm.
    With a wine industry on it’s knees and dawning recognition that it’s future depends upon special vineyards and sustainable practises, I would say that Cullen is very important for our future. Not to mention the sustainability of the Margaret River region; the very region craft brewers now seek to exploit.
    The decisions taken in permitting a craft brewery to operate alongside an important biodynamic vineyard, seem to be speculative, favouring development over objections from the vineyard and many in the industry, including myself.
    The issue is that we don’t know what the impact will be.
    There are certainly many organisms used in craft brewing that are capable of affecting delicate eco systems, such as an organic or biodynamic vineyard.
    It would be a long debate.
    I don’t understand why it was necessary to put a brewery in that location and when the brewery insisted, why the relevant authorities were willing to support it in the absence of scientific guarantees.
    Not to mention the intangible, but just as important negative perception imposed upon the biodynamic credentials of the site.
    This argument seems as crazy and thoughtless as the mining versus vineyard debate that has threatened this beautiful and important region.

    Phil Sexton
    Innocent Bystander
    Yarra Valley Victoria

  3. They DO know what the impact will be Phil. The applicant’s submitted detailled designs of the brewing system and guarantee 99.9% containment of yeast. In fact during the SAT case, a ‘yeast expert’ was flown over from NSW to provide evidence on the impact of brewing yeast and concluded even the most volatile/robust brewing yeasts (such as Brettanomyces) are actually more vulnerable to ‘native’ (originally European as Kieren correctly pointed out) yeasts. It was scientifically guaranteed the impacts were managable and besides such impacts become a civil matter between land owners in the event of contamination the approval was whether such a land-use was appropriate in the area. There is/was no evidence anywhere in the world that suggests breweries have a negative effect on wineries, even the special biodynamic/organic varieties of Cullens.

    Anyway if Cullens were real about the risks, they would employ strict biosecurity measures at their own site, which I know for a fact they dont. It was purely a Brewery vs. Winery debate which is why SAT made the right decision.

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