Monnik Beer Co., finally open, is well worth the wait

Monnik Beer 4Well, it took almost three years, but Monnik Beer Co. is finally open in Germantown, just across the street from Check’s Café. And you know what? It was totally worth the wait.

The space at 1036 E. Burnett Ave., the former home of Zeppelin Café, is clean and inviting, there are plenty of taps pouring fresh beer, and there is already a buzz that is helping make the brewery and taproom a place to be. The food menu is brief but deliciously diverse, and the beer is not just on point, but outstanding.

There have been times when the delay has dragged on so long, it has been joked about; owners Brian Holton and Ian Luijk were never joking, however, and they have delivered.

I went to Monnik twice over the holiday weekend, and the first thing I am going to say is this: Monnik’s IPA, to my palate, is probably the best in the city right now. I have tasted most of the Monnik beers, and they all are excellent, but that one really nails it for me. (Case in point: They had run out of the stuff by the time I made my second visit, so I guess I’m not alone.)

I also tried three of the menu items and was impressed by all three. No, this is not a fine cuisine experience — it’s a brewery and taproom — but what is better than a cozy room that serves fresh beer and good pub food? Not much. Monnik has already leaped to the top of the heap in that regard.

Monnik Beer 3Friends told me the beer cheese and spent grain bread was a highlight, so when my girlfriend Cynthia, our friend Jessica and I went, that was what I insisted we order. The beer cheese was mild, thick and rather basic, almost resembling pimento cheese without the pimento. But the bread? Yeah, it’s delicious, soft and would taste good by itself or with just about anything else spread on it. Spent grains usually go to local farms to feed livestock, but this is a great way to repurpose the husks for the taproom — on top of that, it’s a beautiful pairing, because the bread and lightly tangy cheese balance each other so nicely.

The 12-item menu also has a starter called curry baked beans on soda bread, a take on an English pub classic. We tried that as well, and it was simple, affordable and, well, kind of brilliant. The sweet baked beans were fresh and cooked plump, with just the right amount of curry, and the soda bread was an inch thick, soft and delicious. I was scooping up excess beans from the basket in which the appetizer was delivered like a greedy miser. They were that tasty.

Cynthia and I went back a few days later after a friend told me about the Bier Burger, which is not on the menu but apparently is going to be in the very near future. We each got one, and they came out quickly (kudos to the Monnik kitchen staff, by the way) with hand-cut fries.

Monnik Beer 6 burgerThe burgers are served on thick and soft wheat buns, and the best way I can describe the single-patty burgers are that they are sort of like the ultimate Steak ’N’ Shake tribute. The burger I had was thin, cooked crisp on the outside, yet medium rare inside, and hanging off the bun. I’ve had better burgers, but it was quite tasty, topped with the aforementioned beer cheese, beer mustard, onion rings and pickles.

Cynthia ordered hers with the beer mustard on the side, which gave us a chance to really experience it, and it had quite a nice kick. She also ordered a side of curry ketchup, and it was a sweet and mildly spicy complement to the fries.

As noted, the menu is fairly brief, yet not simple — in fact, it’s quite well designed, with nods to English pub favorites in the curry beans and Mokie’s Pie, which comes in two versions, pork and currant and roasted root vegetables.

There are a pair of house burgers, which look to be every bit as promising as the Bier Burger, as well as a neighborhood-appropriate sauerbraten, not to mention smoked trout with poached egg, and War Fries, which are french fries served with Dutch mayo, peanut sauce and chopped onions. Nothing is priced over $12. (We also heard good things about the fried kalette salad.)

If you’ve not tried the beer, get ready for a lengthy and tasty tour. Ranging from an accessible and low-octane English mild (Mild George) to a zesty ginger saison to a 9.0 ABV Sour Cyanator, a doppelbock aged in a sour barrel and whiskey barrel. For beginners, there’s the crisp and drinkable Hauck’s Pilsner, named in tribute to Hauck’s Handy Store, just a few blocks away. The point is, there will no doubt be something to satisfy your taste buds.

Again, it was a long wait for Monnik’s opening, but well worth it. Now I just have to hope they won’t run out of IPA again.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.


Louisville Brewfest 2015 features mayoral brew, new Louisville breweries

BrewFest 2015 posterIn 2009, when the inaugural Louisville Brewfest took place in the basement of the Clifton Center, the organizers at Louisville Independent Business Alliance were a little taken aback at the response.

“We bought 1,000 mugs,” says LIBA director Jennifer Rubenstein. “We figured, ‘We can keep (leftovers) for next year.’ We ran through all those mugs and had to go out and get more cups. We were shocked.”

To say the place was packed that first year is an understatement, but that led to the festival being an annual event held at Slugger Field, which has a bit more wiggle room. Of course, these days, it gets pretty packed at the baseball stadium as well. That’s why there will be a few new wrinkles this year, such as having attendees line up at brewery booths along the outside walls rather than in the concourse where lines can block foot traffic.

“Every year we look more toward traffic control,” Rubenstein says.

In addition, the rotating taps have been split into two areas instead of one to help avoid congestion. That also means more beers can be featured, which is a good thing, too. Because, hey, it’s all about the beer.

This year, Brewfest attendees can enjoy a pair of special beers, one of which was brewed by Goodwood Brewing with a little help from Mayor Greg Fischer. It’s an Irish stout to celebrate his Irish roots, which he dubbed “5-0-Brew.” The other is an Oktoberfest-style beer brewed at Apocalypse Brew Works with some help from local musician Ben Sollee. “Kaytoberfest” is named after his cello.

The latter, in fact, will be available after Brewfest at Apocalypse and a few Brewfest sponsors’ establishments for a couple of weeks, thanks to a larger production run.

The Brewseum, a look back at Louisville’s brewing history with artifacts and other educational features, returns this year. Another feature of every Louisville Brewfest is the ongoing addition of new breweries.

“There are new breweries opening all the time,” Rubenstein says. “It’s been fun to watch the craft beer scene grow and to be supportive of that. I remember Against the Grain, their first year at Brewfest, was selling sodas because they didn’t have any beer ready.”

Akasha Brewing is one of the new breweries that will be on hand this year. Co-owner Rick Stidham says the plan is to offer samples of the brewery’s American pale ale, gose and saison-style beers. Stidham and his partners have been working hard to get the brewery’s taproom, located at 909 E. Market St., open this year. Brewfest will be a coming-out party of sorts.

“The logistics of juggling brewing, packaging and distribution schedules, and festivals and events and opening the taproom and more, are anxiety-inducing,” Stidham says, “but we’re determined to have fun with it all.”

Stidham says he plans to open the brewery and taproom by later this fall. Also, Rubenstein says to look for Monnik Beer Co. (formerly Beer Engine) to have a booth with samples of its products. Co-owner Brian Holton says Brewfest-goers will get a taste of Monnik’s IPA, ginger saison and Hauck’s American Pils.

In all, 19 local and regional breweries will be on hand, including Against the Grain, Apocalypse Brew Works, Bluegrass Brewing Company, Cumberland Brewery, Falls City Beer, Goodwood Brewing Company, New Albanian Brewing Company and Sterling Beer. Pre-parties will be held by primary sponsor BoomBozz Pizza & Taphouse at all locations, including Joella’s Hot Chicken and Manny & Merle’s, on Tuesday, Sept. 22, featuring $2 Goodwood pints and chances to win ticket packages to Brewfest.

The 2015 Brewfest takes place Friday, Sept. 25, from 4-10 p.m. General admission is $5, with $1 pours. VIP tickets are $45.

There is also an after party planned starting at 10 p.m. at Haymarket Whiskey Bar, located at 331 E. Market St.

“That,” Rubenstein says, “is when I get to relax.”