by Ammie Bryant and Chris Franklin Image Credits Jefferson Bryant and Mark Waits
Image Credits Jefferson Bryant and (Cover photo by Mark Waits)
If you happen to glance to the north as you drive past downtown Stillwater on Sixth, you may have noticed there is a new business on the 500 block of South Husband. Jerod Millirons and Dave Monks started Iron Monk Brewing Company a year ago, but it took time to get the brewery and the taproom open for tours and tastings. The craft beer scene is exploding and because of that popularity, it took over two years for Iron Monk to get the required equipment from the manufacturer. Then there was the work of demoing and preparing the building which had been a grocery store and then an AT&T phone center many years ago.
All that work and preparation have paid off, and today, the Iron Monk Brewing Company Tap Room is open at 519 S. Husband Wednesdays 4-7pm, Thursdays and Fridays 4-10pm, and Saturdays 12pm-10pm. Tours of the facility began in December and for the price of the $15 admission you get a great overview of the history of Iron Monk, a detailed explanation of the brewing process, a close-up view of all the brewing equipment, samples of the raw ingredients and even an Iron Monk pint glass to take home. In addition, you also get free samples of each of the Iron Monk craft brews.
Inside the Tap Room, you are immediately immersed in the world of craft brew. The unassuming exterior of the building is much like a geode, a fairly plain wrapper for the intricate beauty held inside. As you walk inside, you are greeted with custom-made bench-style tables and a beautiful curved 40-foot bar top. The brick walls are adorned with photos by local photographer Mark Waits. Looking past the bar is a series of large picture windows giving you an amazing view of the brewhouse. Being inside the Tap Room feels very much like being inside a speakeasy, hidden away in the basement of some non-de-script building, yet it is quite inviting.
We were excited to get the chance to tour and visit with the Iron Monk owners to learn more about Stillwater’s first and only Craft Brewery. Jerod Millirons hails from Duncan, Oklahoma, and is a graduate of OSU. He has a BA in Biology as well as an M.B.A. Dave Monks is from Fort Gibson, Oklahoma and has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology. Millirons and Monks met while teaching biology together at North Central Oklahoma College in Stillwater.
Of the two, Dave has been home-brewing the longest, at twenty-two years. It was their mutual admiration for craft beers that solidified their friendship, as they visited different bars to try out new beers. They began brewing together about eight years ago but didn’t begin brewing for Iron Monk specifically until January of 2015. By February, they had their first kegs ready for distribution.
This past year has seen successful local growth for the brand as word of Stillwater’s first and only craft brewery spread. Stillwater has been the ideal location for their budding craft brews, according to Jerod. “Even if we lived in another location, we would have wanted to start here,” Jerod explained that the college provides a fresh clientele for the brand and helps to spread the word as students graduate and tell others about Iron Monk.
The character of the community of Stillwater has also been important to Iron Monk’s decision to begin their business here. “Stillwater in itself is a very loyal town and that helps to keep a nice base of customers who will purchase your beer. If we were to do this in Oklahoma City, for example, we face the possibility of getting lost in the crowd as just being another brewery. Stillwater has made all the difference in the world and nothing has been a bigger influence on where we are.” After just a few minutes of talking with Jerod, you immediately under-stand just how much the owners of Iron Monk love Stillwater.
Word of mouth has been the primary mode of advertising Iron Monk. Craft brew aficionados are always looking for new beers to try and this includes talking with fellow craft beer enthusiasts. Local enthusiasts should have no trouble finding Iron Monk—either in stores or in bars and restaurants. Most of the package stores in town carry Iron Monk and the brand is served in nearly thirty locations in Stillwater alone. Iron Monk is not in any states other than Oklahoma yet, but they hope to be soon. “So far, about 70% of our taproom patrons have either been from out of town or out of state and we hope to build on that,” Jerod said.
Iron Monk currently offers several craft beers. Jerod explained, “There’s Payne County Imperial IPA, our Milk Stout, Stilly Wheat, a new Amber, and we just came out with Hopped Up Wheat, which is exclusive to the taproom right now. On the rare occasion we get some extra time, we like to brew some one-offs like a Chocolate Covered Orange Stout, Somethin’ Pumpkin, and a Chocolate Habanero Stout.”
Jerod and Dave explained that the brewing process itself takes about eight hours, but the fermentation process can take anywhere from four to five days, up to two and half weeks depending on the beer. IPAs take longer just because of their higher alcohol volume, therefore, the Payne County Imperial IPA takes the longest.
Every step must be monitored closely to ensure brewing a good batch. Each step in brewing is important; Dave and Jerod have had to scrap whole batches because a brew didn’t taste quite right. But that is just part of brewing sometimes. The most crucial step is sanitation. The temperatures that you brew at are ideal for contaminates to grow, so Jerod and Dave take extra care to make sure everything is cleaned and sanitized properly. Nothing is more important than cleanliness.
Craft Brewing is incredibly popular and some-thing that Stillwater has been missing. Iron Monk Brewing Company has quickly become Stillwater’s premium beer, and the Tap Room is the new place to be as the community of Stillwater returns the regard that Iron Monk Brewing Company has nurtured with great care. We expect great things to come from Iron Monk Brewing Company.