As we step in to the Moncada Brewery of Ladbroke Grove, West London, we are met warmly with welcoming eyes by brewer, Julio Moncada himself. An Argentine with a history of cooking, Julio is a walking endorsement for the re-imagining of cask ale, its clienteles and purveyors. The point that has been stressed so tediously, by myself, included (for which I apologise), is still important, that cask ales are not purely the reserve of hoary old gentlemen in sandals or that of young, ‘rah!’ rugby players. On the contrary, Julio is young, ambitious and perhaps most importantly, is from a Latin background, an environment in which cold, carbonated lagers usually rule the roost. Although, Moncada’s beers are not necessarily revolutionary, they are certainly a big step in the right direction.
So, a little about the man, first. Currently in his early thirties, he has finally found the career choice for him. He explains his first venture as being that of an extreme sports instructor which is naturally surprising coming from anyone’s lips. It does make sense though when I am told about his get-go attitude in regards to the other endeavours in, his life so far. After finishing in this trade, he took the surprising step of switching to cordon bleu cookery which he apparently excelled in too. Eventually, after long, stressful hours in a high-end restaurant, Julio decided on the idea of setting up a straight-from-the-source deli with his wife and selling from there, small runs of home-brew with which, by then, he had become quickly adept. The idea soon blossomed in to establishing a fully-fledged micro-brewery and was resolved finally in scrapping the idea of the deli altogether and concentrating purely on the beer.
Like most brewers, Julio started with home-brewing, feeling it to be an interesting new outlet for his interest in cookery and flavour. Indeed, he still believes this to be the case, explaining to me that it is ‘almost the same thing, only with less ingredients, lengthier processes and using liquids and not solids.’ Simplistic as this may sound, that is exactly the case. Again, most brewers seem to share a common interest in cooking and general flavour creation. Of course, Julio possesses this to a great degree and has no doubt, aided him in creating his beers.
Once the idea was set in stone to create a fully-operative micro-brewery, Julio set about participating in various courses at Brewlab in Sunderland. Along with 3 intensive courses, one lasting 3 days, another 3 weeks and finally 3 months, he consistently attended breweries across the U.K in order to pick up tips and handy ideas for his own concoctions. In fact, he is still a frequent visitor of other breweries and a consistent taster of other beers (he often goes to The Union Tavern on a Friday lunchtime with his wife to do exactly that).
All of this translates wonderfully in to a very contented man operating a brewery that he loves and runs brilliantly well. Sweating in the deep summer heat, I am the stark opposite of the man sitting opposite me, calmly answering questions with a broad smile as the sheen of cleanliness emanates from his moderate yet pristine brewery (incidentally he will soon be up-grading his facilities to a larger space). This meticulous nature in cleanliness is mirrored in his obsession for the right flavour of his beer. Julio is quick to stress the enjoyment he gets in seeing people come back for another of his ales but does concede that his enjoyment of the product is just as important. Illustrating this, is his presentation to us of three amber ales, all dry hopped and all with slightly adjusted recipes that he will unveil officially at the opening of his new premises. It is a privilege to be given such an opportunity to try out un-released brews like this, so we naturally take him up on the offer. Three glasses are presented, the first with Amarillo and Cascade hops which has all the perfumed fruitiness in scent and taste that can be attributed to those hop varieties. The second is the same only with more hops, the result of course being something that is punchier, but still very sessionable indeed. Finally, we are offered a wee taste of the Hallertauer variety that has the slight dryness of tea whilst retaining a fruity peach taste throughout.
We are also presented with a couple of other offerings by our host. Fresh from the cask, we try Julio’s summer offering which possesses a nice balance between hops and malt, and is potent with seasonal English flavour. It’s naturally fruity and has an almost mentholated taste that finishes with a a light bitterness. There is a little bit of wheat involved too which creates a little bit of fruit and spice whilst owing the beer a wonderful-looking beer with fantastic head retention.
Also, from an un-labelled bottle (which I thought was quite cool), we try another one of his amber ales, brewed this time with stella hops. There is a lovely berry fruitiness that exists but also a lovely pack of malt that can be seen in the slightly darker colour. In flavour too, this is evident as the malt emerges increment by increment.
Moncada brewery produces beers that are stalwart session beers with the promise of porters and stouts on the horizon. They are not particularly ground-breaking but they are evocative of the English ales that Julio first fell in love with when he first came to this country. Flying the flag for West London’s contribution to the craft beer movement, Julio Moncada’s product is well worth a go. Watch this space, he’s going places.