Only in a college town would a guy with a Ph.D. in molecular biology and a guy with an MBA meet and start a brewery. However, that was precisely the recipe that led Jerod Millirons and Dave Monks to start Iron Monk Brewing in Stillwater, Okla.
Due to Oklahoma alcohol laws, production in the brewery started in advance of the taproom opening. The brewery, which recently celebrated its fourth anniversary within the past month, did not open its taproom until late 2015. The modernization of Oklahoma beer laws has given the taproom new life, as they are now allowed to sell beers above 3.2% alcohol-by-weight. Now the taproom is open more days and attracts larger crowds because of the new laws. It’s location in downtown Stillwater helps facilitate a steady flow of visitors.
Immediately after entering the brewery, you see the bar a distance from the front door. To the left is a wall of empty beer cans and to the right are some coolers with beer along with some merchandise for sale. If you strain when you enter the brewery, you may see the production side of the brewery.
The bar feature a beautiful wooden top with a pair of televisions, so it is a great setting to watch your favorite sporting event and enjoy craft beer.
My wife Katie and I had previously visited the taproom a few years ago when we were in town to visit with friends from graduate school at Oklahoma State University. With the modernization of Oklahoma beer laws encouraging breweries to offer a wider variety of beers on draft at the tap, which allowed us to build two unique flights of beers. We shared one flight before our tour of the production side, and the other flight after our tour.
We started with Bright D. WeizenSour, Raspberry Wheat, Exit 174 Rye Pale Ale, and Chocolate Habanero Stout. Bright D. WeizenSour was particularly unique blend of fruits, but a very good Berliner Weisse. The best beer from the flight was by far the Chocolate Habanero Stout. Its base is a milk stout that has habanero peppers and chocolate added to bring together a unique mix of flavors. It is incredibly smooth, but spicy with some chocolate undertones.
Our second flight consisted of the Payne County Imperial IPA, Velvet Antler, Hopped-Up Wheat, and Stilly-Rita. Among this quartet, the Payne County Imperial IPA was my favorite beer. It was rather malty for an imperial India pale ale, but it finished with a good bite.
With sampling the beer out-of-the-way, it’s best to delve into how it came to be in the glasses. So after finishing our first flight, Katie and I got a tour of the production side of the brewery. The tour starts with a binder of photographs detailing the history of the building, which is not something I’ve encountered on other brewery tours. Although some photos focus on the transformation of the building to its current use as a brewery and taproom, there were also plenty of photos showing the history of the structure as the former AT&T building where local residents would pick up their phones.
The tour, like those offered at many breweries, walks visitors through the production process from start to finish. So we started by seeing the grain room and the grain hopper.
After seeing the grain hopper and learning about the wheat strains that Oklahoma State University has developed that the brewery using in the production of its beer, we got to see the mash tun. Seeing a mash tun isn’t necessarily exciting, but because the staff had brewed just a few days beforehand it was open. So for the first time ever, I got to see inside a mash tun.
Following our view of the mash tun, we got to see the fermentation tanks.
The last place visitors see on the tour is the canning line, which is one of the newest additions to the brewery. Currently, Iron Monk regularly cans seven beers.
After completing our tour of the production side of the brewery, we returned to the taproom and had our second flight of beers. I also took the opportunity to capture a few more photos of the taproom. Most importantly, I wanted to capture a photo of the area to the left of the bar that provides visitors with a view into the production side of the brewery.
Tours of the brewery are offered on Saturdays at two and four o’clock. People under 21 are allowed to participate in the tour, but because of Oklahoma law those under 21 are not allowed in the taproom.
Even if you don’t go on a tour, the taproom is a great place to enjoy craft beer. There are a variety of seating options, a handful of televisions, and even a selection of board games. Like many breweries, Iron Monk has a selection of beers available to take home in their cooler, but they also have a crowler machine that allows guests to take some a 32-oz. can of their favorite beer available on draft. Katie and I opted to bypass the beer in the cooler and took home a crowler of Chocolate Habanero Stout.
Whether you like a spicy stout or a more mellow beer or a hoppy IPA , Iron Monk Brewing has something to offer everybody. With incredibly high ceilings and a variety of wood tones, the taproom creates a spacious yet intimate setting to enjoy a quality beer.