Occasionally I get to travel for my job. Well I travel often, but occasionally it is to places that don’t suck. When I return my beer pals always ask me how the beer scene was and I usually answer, “yeah it was cool, I guess”. For those not in the know, Philly is considered by many to be one of the craft beer capitals in US. I know, I know, you are screaming, “PA has stupid liquor laws and few top tier breweries” I won’t argue with that, but the beer distributing gods smiled upon Philly and decided that many of the best beers in the world should be shipped there.
When I was told I needed to go on business trip to Philly, I somehow scheduled it during the Philly Beer Week. Oops. I was already aware of the great beer scene and I had heard Monk’s was one of the best places to consume beer on the planet. Being the constant pessimist that I am, I was sure that Monk’s was full of pretentious people that were used to having world class beer on the menu. I was also sure that like many things in the Craft Beer world Monk’s was overrated and not worth the hassle. I was wrong.
Even with my doubts I decided Monk’s would be my first stop after the hotel. I dropped my bags at my Holiday Inn Express (corporate approved hotel) and caught a free shuttle to Monk’s arriving just a little after 9 P.M. on a Monday night. I walked in and there was nary a seat to be found at the bar. I was already disappointed and took a couple steps toward the hostess. She informed that there was another bar in the back of the restaurant. The joint was far larger than I would have guessed from the outside, a BARDIS of sorts. I wandered toward the back and found the last open seat. The next several hours will go down as one of the best beer experiences of my life.
There had been a sour fest earlier that day with 100% of the cash only draft sales going to Alzheimer’s research. There were still quite a few beers on tap so I snagged a glass of a Russian River favorite ( I will go into a mini review of my tab in a second) I sipped that and began searching through the self proclaimed Monk’s “Beer Bible”. We have all called a large beer menu a bible before, but this was different. I immediately turned to the sour section and the Cantillon and Russian Rivers leaped off the page and taunted my liver. I was in beer heaven. As the hours passed I made friends with the extremely knowledgeable staff and everyone around me. We bought bottles to share with each other and took turns telling stories of bad batches, great bars and must have beers from lesser known breweries. The hours slipped away and so did all my cares. Add in an amazing pub decor and a killer line up a Belgian dishes and this bar shines like none I have ever encountered before….and I go to a lot of bars.
I will go through the beer I had in house and a brief description/rating. I will aslo provide the prices not to boast or anything like that, just so you know what to expect when you come to a place like Monk’s. I am not going to provide the BA or Ratenbeer ratings, but most of these beers are in the top 50, some in the top 5. I also will not do sessionability because these beers are not something you generally see in duplicate.
Russian River Sanctification: This light and bretted up sour is refreshing and tart. If any RR sour crosses your path, feast on it.
Overall Rating: 6 Pack
Cost: $10 for a tulip pour
Russian River Toronado 25th: Toronado is also considered one of the best beer bars in the world. Friends with RR, they decided to brew a beer for their 20th anniversary. It was so good that it inspired the RR beer “Consecration” one of the best dark sours on earth. The 25th is a recreation of the original 6 beer blend used in the 20th. It is unlike any beer I have ever had. It is unlike anything I have ever had and could be best described as boozy sweet tarts, full of fruit, barrel and booze. All perfectly balanced. I was too busy getting drunk to take picks of Monk’s so I used this label as the pic in this post. Don’t feel bad if the label is not familiar to you, it only goes two places: Cali and Philly.
Overall Rating: 6 pack, 7 if that was a thing
Cost $55 for a 750 ML
Russian River Temptation: Another bretted up sour that is aged in chardonnay barrels. Great oak and sour balance and the white wine brings fantastic white grape sour notes to the party. Another fantastic RR sour.
Overall Rating: 6 Pack
Cost: $50 for a 750 ML (this was shared with me, but I got two full glasses
Cantillon Classic Gueuze: From one of the best sour brewers on the planet, this beer comes straight from Belgium and is not an easy find in other parts of the US. At Monk’s it is a regular offering. It is sour, very light and extremely tasty. Full of lemon and white grape with a hit of yeast and carbonation. Delightful.
Overall Rating: 6 Pack
Cost: $13 for a 16 oz bottle
Russian River Pliny the Elder: If you are familiar world class beer, this name is dropped a lot. Many consider this beer to be the first official double IPA. Called an accident by Russian River it carries a lot of expectations. Unfortunately I do not think it lives up to them. It is full of pine and citrus and drinks very easily. It is well balanced and perfectly carbonated. I understand the initial allure, but in today’s beer market I think it would get lost in the shuffle of perfectly adequate doubles IPAs.
Overall Rating: 4 Pack
Cost $10 for a pint