LAST WEEK I took a trip up into the foothills of the Cangshan mountains in Dali with Carl and Scott of Bad Monkey fame to visit their brew house. For anyone who remembers the Bad Monkey of old – the bar’s been running some seven years now, with a massive overhaul and change of location two years ago – it’s a fantastic achievement: half a million RMB in investment and a current capacity of 500 liters of brew a day.
The Monkey is currently only licensed to sell Bad Monkey Beer at the bar, so the brew house is running at output of around 50 liters a day, or around 100 glasses. But the idea is, having got this far, to get the operation pumping out ale at full capacity – which will likely require finding a licensing partner.
As Carl Oakley puts it: “I’d rather have a small percentage in a very, very big business than a large percentage in a very small business.”
Do it clean
Until that happens, the brews come in nine varieties – ranging from a classic stout to pale ales, with some unique offerings like the orange and coriander thrown into the mix (everything is in experimentation stage and we’re not giving away any secrets). For the moment, they’re served in a rotating basis, four varieties at a time at the bar. Among the selling points, apart from the all imported raw materials, such as hops (largely from Germany) and state-of-art brewing equipment, is the quality of the spring water from which the beer is brewed.
Yinbo Quan Spring
The Yinbo Quan spring, claims the Li family, who own the approximately four-acre estate, has been bubbling for more than a thousand years fed by waters from the 4,200-meter-high Cangshan mountains. It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic spot for a brewery, and if you can get enough people together the attached restaurant can cook a whole lamb on a spit for you.
Scott at the pump
The Drunken Monkey Pale Ale is currently riding at No 1 on the Bad Monkey Beer hit list, though the stout – popular with Chinese drinkers – is a close second. All beers are Y25. Carl and Scott are continuing to experiment with flavors, so you can expect some interesting surprises in future.