In heaven there is no beer so we drink it here. --Trappist Monk Proverb (or Polka lyric)
The Old Monk 2847 N. Henderson 214-821-1880
Edging to a table at the Old Monk, I noticed a young man drinking Miller Lite and nearly stopped in my tracks. In a bar with such an admirable selection of handcrafted specialty beers and imported ales, opting for flavorless, lowest-common-denominator grain-water would be like going to a steakhouse and insisting on hamburger, well-done. Don’t get me wrong—when times are lean, I’ll drink just about anything cold and bubbly. But judging by this guy’s distressed jeans and un-distressed face, he wasn’t pinching pennies. Besides, laughingstock American macrobrews were only 50 cents cheaper than grownup beers. He was just a Beer Idiot.
I was once a Beer Idiot myself. In America, where we are raised on Coors Light commercial promises of nookie and guy’s night escapades, we all start as Beer Idiots. Perhaps some kind soul will nudge him to try a slightly less generic lager, luring him with a comfortingly familiar dudebro brew like Corona, which in turn might even lead him to try some ale. But not me, not that night; I was thirsty and had no time for amateurs.
I started with the night’s draft special, a pint of DeKoninck ($5, 5.2% ABV). Mrs. Hophead opted for a pint of Franziskaner ($5, 5.6% ABV), a German unfiltered wheat beer. Despite some nice lacing on the glass and a pleasant malt, the DeKoninck was too subtle for my taste. Likewise, Mrs. Hophead was content but not thrilled with her choice.
For our follow-up brews, we asked our waitress to recommend pairings with our food. She asked Mrs. Hophead, who was eating the vegetarian burger, for her favorite type of beer (wheat). With that, the waitress recommended the Pinkus organic hefe-weizen ($6.50, 5.1% ABV, 16 oz.), explaining that it was flavorful but not enough to overwhelm the lentil burger. I’d ordered the Monk Burger, which comes with a slathering of rarebit, a Welsh mixture of cheese, Worcestershire sauce and onions. I asked about the Fuller’s ESB and 1845, two British ales I had yet to try. After making sure I was OK with a lot of hoppiness, she recommended the ESB ($7, 6.5% ABV, 18 oz.), explaining that it could hold its own against the burger’s seasoning and sharp cheese.
The server went two for two on her recommendations. Mrs. Hophead liked her second wheat beer of the night much better than the first, and the deliciously bitter and hoppy ESB proved a worthy adversary to the burger.
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Selection: Perhaps 100 beers and ciders (I lost count), with rotating bottled and draft specials. The beer menu is helpfully arranged with information like place of origin, alcohol content and serving size. Check the menu at the bar’s web site.
Server Knowledge: Very good. She seemed taken aback at first that we asked for recommendations, but after some initial hesitance proved she knew her stuff.
Beer Service: Excellent. The crisp hefe-weizens were served with generous lemon wedges and were refreshingly cold, and the ale was properly cool. Personally, I’m not choosy about beer glassware, or if I even have a glass at all, but all four orders came in appropriate vessels--Franziskaner in its own signature goblet. –Jesse Hughey