Hemel Hempstead is one the biggest towns in Hertfordshire, with a population breaching 100,000 and convenient links to both smaller and larger towns within the home-counties as well as the country’s capital. There are around 2,000 breweries in the UK, with close to 100 in London alone, with this Hemel Hempstead is a sitting duck in the burgeoning British beer scene. Introducing: Monks Inn
Monks Inn is set to be Hemel’s first ever micropub, opening November 10th in the former Jenning’s betting shop in the town’s market square. 9 lines of cask ale will flow as 4 handpumps accompany a choice of 5 ales on gravity dispense, all alongside 6 still ciders.
Monk’s Inn may sound like the perfect tribute to the British institute that is cask beer, but it is the spirit of South Africa that will course through the town centre establishment. Owners and brothers Clint and Des assert:
“There’s two things us South Africans are passionate about, hearty imbibing and great conversation to go with it.”
Clint is the passion behind Watford Rugby Club Beer Festival, the most recent in July boasting 36 beers and 38 ciders, with fancy-dress rugby matches played to raise money for charitable causes. Clint and Des’ charitable nature does not end there as they are now neighbours of The Salvation Army in Hemel, and look forward to working with them closely in the near future.
Community is a big part of the ethos behind Monks Inn; discounts for CAMRA members and the elderly will be offered, and acoustic music evenings will see a strong focus on interaction and local talent. Live music will be amongst a varied roster of events that are planned to bring in the local drinkers.
The general feel of Monks Inn is cosy, warm and inviting, softly lit in keeping with a ‘monastic beer hall’ theme. The namesake of the micropub comes from Clint and Des’ local back in Durban, South African, where they cut their proverbially drinking teeth and forged some of their best beery memories before moving to the UK.
Whilst standing in the sawdust peppered skeleton of the future boozer, Clint told me of how he came to love British cask beer.
“I only ever drank fizzy stuff up until a decade or so ago, the gateway beer for me was Tring Brewery’s ‘Side Pocket For A Toad’, it opened a door that hasn’t shut since”.
Clint went on to say,
“Despite my insight into the industry, I would have never considered opening a micro pub without the entrepreneurial experience of Des. It was Des’ suggestion that kick started this project.”
After ten years of enjoyed success running beer festivals in Watford, Clint and Des looked to a good friend of their’s, Craig Douglas (of the late, great Bree Louise, Euston) for inspiration. Craig had run a tight ship at the ‘Bree Louise’ until it closed in February 2018, with a cult following for his extensive offer of impeccably kept cask beer. Unfortunately the space (just outside Euston Station in London) had to be made vacant for a section of the soon-to-be HS2 rail line.
Don’t fear though, as the spirit of ‘The Bree’ is still with us. If you ask one of the brothers, they’ll be sure to point out exactly which pieces of furniture are ex-Bree, kindly donated by their friend Craig.
As I was guided around the old bookies, little remained to indicate that it had operated as such since before I was born (early 90’s), in fact everything was looking well polished, especially considering many other pieces had been either donated or up-cycled.
“The main reasons for us doing this fit under the three D’s” the brothers told me, “Determination, Desire and Desperation.”
– these guys have really put everything they have into this, countless savings and man hours, the resources and kindness of close friends and family, and their undying love of a great pint. This place has been built on kindness, warmth and passion and I have no doubt will become a community asset for the town of Hemel Hempstead.
The pub is looking forward to opening its doors to all on November 10th, with a fully stocked backbar of spirits, wine on tap and two further beers on keg; one rotating craft beer and a craft lager from Windsor & Eton (SIBA Assured Independent British Craft Brewer). There are already plans to introduce South African cuisine to Monk’s Inn such as biltong, joining a range of other cold bites, with the possibility of hot ‘Bunny Chow’ in the pipeline too.
Cheers to the ‘Three D’s’ and to the bright future of cask beer at Monks Inn,