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Rob Metzger of Chatty Monks on Future Expansion and Visiting a Costa Rica Brewery

Chatty Monks Brewing Company has become a staple in the Southeastern Pennsylvania beer community from its home in Reading. After scouting around for the right spot, the taproom opened in 2014 as a central meeting place for sampling Chatty Monks’ brews.

Word spread about Chatty Monks long before the taproom opened thanks to the brewers’ generosity—sharing with friends and donating to charity auctions turned attention to the new brewery. We chatted with Rob Metzger, one of the Monks, about the future of his new production facility and his recent trip to Fuego Brewing Co. in Costa Rica.

Four years since opening, with a growing fan base and the same three-barrel system and seven fermenters, Rob and partners Brian Reedy and Joe Ellis are looking to what’s next. First up: A production brewery in the same region as the Chatty Monks taproom, with space for a larger brewhouse and plenty of barrels. Rob added, “We look at where craft beer has evolved. The big guys are already here to stay, but I think there is this whole barrel-aged market that is just getting started, and it is really going to drive the palate of a lot of craft beer lovers.”

As a team, the Chatty Monks are close-knit and keep busy—as brewers and outside the brewery. Rob is a financial advisor and tax consultant, and does the books for Chatty Monks. Joe is the operations manager for a major water company. Rob said, “His expertise is ‘living’ liquid, so we’ll use his skills when we arrive at that stage.” Brian is in charge of branding and marketing and a plastic surgeon by day. Rob said, “When you walk into Chatty Monks and you see what you see, that all comes from his brain.”

So how did Rob end up taking a working vacation? When you’re busy, it can be helpful to get away, even if it’s just to do more work. Rob explained, “Every year, my wife and kids and I go to Costa Rica on a mission trip with an organization called Praying Pelican Missions.”

The mission group helps local communities with some of the toughest tasks—out in the scorching heat. Rob said, “It involves really hot and humid sweat equity. On this trip, we mixed a bunch of concrete by hand to extend a platform where they have a food program for children in the neighborhood, which is just one of the hardest things you could do.” In their downtime, the family also enjoyed time on the beach, in addition to riding ATVs in the Osa Peninsula and ziplining 100 feet off the ground above beautiful scenery.

On the trip, Rob also noticed a boost in breweries. “When we first went down about three years ago, there were only three craft breweries. Just this past year, there has definitely been a growth. I want to say I counted around 10 microbreweries, and one of them was Fuego Brewing Co.” Rob had the opportunity to see the tropical space at Fuego and chat with the head brewer, Alan Struck, who faces unique issues brewing in paradise.

First, there is a tariff on all imported ingredients that Fuego sources for its beer. Rob shined some light on that, explaining, “in the states, we know there is a pretty high profit margin, and that is immediately cut in half for us.” The financial aspect of opening any business under that tariff is pretty rough, especially when the country has a struggling postal system.

Rob added, “Down there, these places don’t have addresses and they don’t have a real postal system.” Grain deliveries come at the whim of the untimely post, if at all. When deliveries don’t come and brew schedules can’t be delayed any further, Alan is forced to take a long travel to his closest homebrew shop to purchase comparable grain. He also faces similar problems sourcing hops.

As for the physical limitations inside the brewery, Rob explained, “I showed up when he was in the middle of the boil, and he was using a direct flame. That surprised me, because it’s already around 100 degrees in Costa Rica! Then, there’s Alan, enclosed in glass and using a hot flame; it must have been 125 degrees in there.” If a soaring tariff or missing grain deliveries don’t make you sweat, the heat sure will.

Despite the issues, Rob says Alan is churning out delicious beers. “Fuego had a Mango Pale Ale that was delicious. Easily the best beer I’ve had down there.”

Rob’s trip to Costa Rica shines some light on the luxuries we have here in America, both as beer lovers and brewers. Luckily, the guys at Chatty Monks will be tariff-free on their next venture. Keep an eye out for barrel-aged offerings, which are sure to include a variety of spirit barrels, Rob hints. If some of their delicious experiments with barrels are any indication, there are exciting things to come.

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The Brewers of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit trade association that brings together leaders of Pennsylvania-based breweries in order to promote and protect the brewing industry in the state. Established in 2011, the Brewers of Pennsylvania serves the consuming public of Pennsylvania by encouraging brand diversity in the market. We believe in the nobility of brewing and hold dear the great traditions and history of Pennsylvania brewing.

Jay Breslin

Featured photo: Jamison Advertising Group; other photos, top to bottom: Chatty Monks (next two photos); Rob Metzger (next two photos); Chatty Monks