24 May 2008

The Thirsty Monk...again

Yes, I did review the Monk in the entry "Mid-May Notes." At the risk of redundancy, here's a second jab at a review with aspirations for as little overlap as I can muster...but, after all, such a place as this must surely deserve extra attention. More to the point, I wanted to review the brews I had whilst visiting the Monk, so found a recapturing of the ambiance helpful in that regard...

First of all, I have to give this place very high marks simply for the fact that it exists. In Asheville, no less. Very commendable, very impressive -- I'm overjoyed to have such a specialty place so close by in our little corner of the world. The decor is great. The place is impossibly clean (hooray!) and minimalistically decorated the way I wish my basement looked. I like the ambiance a lot. The selection is incredible. I thought this sort of place only existed in my wild fantasies. Or in Belgium. Apparently, there are enough other beer fetishists out there -- again, in Western NC -- to warrant the creation of such an establishment. 14 rotating taps of the finest Belgian and Belgian-style offerings. Hundreds of bottles, 750 mL and smaller sizes, to more than round out the discriminating palate. My slight disappointment was that a couple of the menu items listed (and tap heads that I saw right in front of me) were not available that particular night. Too bad! However, there was plenty else to choose from.

As I stated in my earlier review, my larger disappointment was with the food selection -- talk about skimpy! True, they do not have an in-house kitchen that I could discern. As it now stands, go for the beer -- definitely! Eat before you go. But try that cheese platter with some tripel. It will be fantastic.

Sampled at the Monk, via the flight option (smaller-sized servings at a lower price, their answer to the Half Pint. Lest you fret unduly, though, rest assured that the flight sizes are quite generous. No 3-ounce nonsense here):

1) North Coast Brother Thelonious (Dubbel, 9.0% ABV)
Ironic that my least-favorite during a night of Belgian-styles was the non-native-Belgian? Probably not. North Coast, on the whole, does amazing work. Old Stock Ale, Old Rasputin...This one, though, while good, couldn't hold much of a 4-foot liturgical taper to some of its Old-World brethren.

Appearance: Dr. Pepper. (3.5/5)
Aroma: STRONG!!! Caramel, dates, raisins (4/5)
Taste: Again, raisins. Apricots, figs, dates, sorghum. (4/5)
Palate: My least favorite aspect of this beer. It's too thin, and disintegrates too soon. Almost watery for something so strong. (3/5)
Overall: Good, sweet, and strong, but too sweet, too rich. Drink this one in small quantities. Perfect match with a cardamom chocolate, though. (3.75 -- B)

2) Dupont Biere de Miel Biologique (Organic Saison with Honey, 8% ABV)
God, this is good stuff. Where has it been hiding all my beer-drinking life? I must say, in the interest of full journalistic disclosure, that my fair wife did not care for this beer. Me, I thought it was the best stuff I'd had since Easter.

Appearance: Looks suspiciously like mead. (4/5)
Aroma: Wildflowers, honey, and malt. (4.5/5)
Taste: Hominy, and non-sweet honey. (5/5)
Palate: PERFECT! Smooth with a bit of spritz. (5/5)
Overall: Quite refreshing and thirst-quenching. The fact that it's 8% ABV is WELL hidden. Saison-ish. The fact that it's a Dupont creation is not surprising given the high level of quality. The fact that it's organic makes me very happy. Amazing beer. More of this. Often. (4.65 -- A+)

3)Huyghe Delirium Nocturnum (Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 8.5% ABV)
Once I discovered how to appreciate and enjoy the Tremens (and oh, but I do), I've been itching to try their other offerings: the Noel, and this, the Nocturnum.

Appearance: Dark ruby red, with a thick head. Enticing if a bit intimidating. (5/5)
Aroma: Sour cherry, brown sugar, faint mild hops. (4/5)
Taste: A carnival ride: sour water, raisins, cherry pits, white pepper, pears, a bitter hop finish. (3.5/5)
Palate: Perfect, really. (5/5)
Overall: Not quite as good as Tremens in my book, but still very solid! Great with chocolate. (4.1 -- A-)

4) Liefmans Kriekbier (Cherry fruited lambic ale. 6% ABV)
First Off: The best Fruited Lambic I've ever had, bar none. One of the best Lambics I've had, period, fruited or otherwise. Wow. They use real cherries, unlike some other kriek brewers. Also: this technically wasn't one of my flight choices, but instead my flight buddy's. I wish it were mine. I willed it to be so. This is crazy stuff.

Appearance: Reddish-purple, with a pink head. Dark, mysterious, and enticing. (4.5/5)
Aroma: Cherry pits, slightly sour with a sweet-tart edge. It's inviting me to pour it down my gullet, but my nose is so entranced that I just want to sniff it all night. (5/5)
Taste: A fruity smorgasbord, but not fruity in the way that sorority spring breaks are fruity -- this is a mature, decadent (yes), refined, high-class fruity. strawberry, raspberry, and (yes) fine cherry notes, along with (if there is such a thing!) gourmet bubble gum and sweet tarts, although the name of this game is "not too sweet!" A sour brett. yeast taste rounds it off. (4.5/5)
Palate: Perfect. A study in nuance and style. (5/5)
Overall: Amazing, really. Again, the best fruited lambic I've ever had. More, please!! (4.65 -- A+)

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