Philly Debrief: The Monk’s Cafe

The beer tour we were booked in for was cancelled, so I had to find my own beer adventure. That involved walking 300m down 16th to the Monk’s Cafe.

As advised, I went to the back bar to find a perch and a beer. I got to chatting with the bartender (in my drunken haze I forgot to write his name down…I think it was John, but I might be making that up), and mentioned my epic list and my quest to try all of the beers from it. Next thing I know, he’s pulling out beer after beer from the fridges, trying to find any from the list (there were plenty). Once I’d decided which beers to tackle that evening, he called a bottle shop near my hotel to see if THEY sold any beers from the list so I could take some with me (they did, and I did) As if that wasn’t helpful enough, he then shouted me a beer from the list – not out of the bar fridges, but from a bottleshop down the road!! A huge thank you goes out to this King amongst bartenders; I’m just sorry that I wasn’t able to share a few beers with him.

Anyway, here’s the beers ticked off in Philly:

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Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale (#122)
Drinking it off tap at the source. It’s sour, but not mouth puckeringly so, giving it real drinkability. Starts fruity, finishes spicy with a buttery malt aftertaste lingering. Kinda like the best lemon lime and bitters you’ve ever had.

XX Bitter (#123)
This was a significant beer, as it was my first non-american beer in the US. Beautiful fresh flavour, a light sweet perfume on the nose and – bizarely – a taste that reminds me of fresh dill pickles, something I’d never tasted until my trip here. I was told at the time that this was due to the Brettanomyces (I’m happy to say I learnt something here) It ends with a light peppery bitterness.

Update 24/10/13: I’ve recently been informed that this beer doesn’t contain Brett after all (see helpful comment below). Turns out the helpful bartender may have been slightly misinformed. At least he meant well

Russian River Supplication (#124)
Coconut, red wine,  raisins….this is beer, isn’t it? An ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with cherries added…rich cocoa powder, sour  cherries…there’s so many flavours in this beer, its frigging ridiculous. It’s an adventure in flavour that you want to dive into, excited by each new  discovery…spicy pepper, a hint of buttery toffee… blurring the line between wine and beer. I’ve always said wineries make the best beer; this ale lends credence to that theory.

Stoudts Pils (#125)
This was the beer the bartender shouted me, because it was one of his favourite session beers. It’s been a day of big beers with big flavour, so this was refreshing.  It’s a pilsener…and by that I mean its the standard definition of a pilsener.  Light gold in colour, floral citrus aroma, spicy bitterness and a light biscuit malt with a hint of honey sweetness. If I had to define to someone what a pilsener was, I’d give them a bottle of this.

I really enjoying trying these big beers full of complex and unique flavours. I equally enjoy beers that exemplify a classic style, with simple flavours done very well.

Such a short stop produced the best beer experience yet. And to top it off, I had a Philly cheese steak too.

Thank you Philadelphia

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3 thoughts on “Philly Debrief: The Monk’s Cafe

  1. Thought you might enjoy this.
    Tap Talk

    Bringing good beer to the thirsty masses of Philly. Companion blog to PhillyTapFinder.com, Philly’s craft beer locator.

    Apr 24 ’13

    I Know What You Drank Last Winter

    The winter 2012-13 numbers are in! PhillyTapFinder tracks what people are looking for, tallies up the pageviews every season, and puts together these very interesting lists. Following is winter 2012-13’s most searched-for beers, breweries, bars, and styles. Some of the results were expected, but there were some surprises as well.

    Most Searched-For Bars – Winter 2012-13

    1.Monk’s Cafe
    2.Alla Spina
    3.Sidecar
    4.Kite & Key
    5.Kraftwork

    PTF’s reaction: Monk’s has reigned supreme in this category since I started tallying the results. BUT… this was the closest that another bar has come to having more pageviews than Monk’s. Alla Spina was right on their tail. Alla Spina has an amazing and unique tap list. They also do a great job with spreading the word about their excellent tap list on PTF through social media (very smart move by Alla Spina) and they link to their list on PTF from their website (also very smart).

    Kite & Key also caught my eye. Their regular tap list is great, but they are also putting together some of the best events in Philly. The events may have had a big impact on this result.

    Also interesting was that the sixth most searched-for bar was a brand new bar, Bainbridge Street Barrel House. We’ll have to see if the “newness factor” had anything to do with this result, but in my opinion, they are pouring one of the most interesting lineups in Philly (lots of smaller, well-respected breweries from throughout the country). I expect them to continue to do well and maybe crack the top five soon.

    Most Searched-For Beers – Winter 2012-13

    1.Russian River Pliny the Younger (CA)
    2.Bell’s Hopslam (MI)
    3.Russian River Pliny the Elder (CA)
    4.Stone Enjoy by 02.15.13 (CA)
    5.Troegs Nugget Nectar (PA)
    6.Russian River Blind Pig (CA)
    7.Troegs Mad Elf (PA)
    8.Hill Farmstead Harlan (VT)
    9.Lagunitas Sucks (CA)
    10.Russian River Damnation (CA)

    PTF’s Reaction: Yes, this was Pliny the Younger season. You can say what you want about chaos that it causes, but there is no question that it is one of the best beers around, its quantity is extremely limited, and it deserves the top spot.

    Hop-heavy beers consumed 8 of the top 10 spots. And clearly, Philly loves Russian River as they placed 4 beers in the top 10 (CA claimed 6 of the top 10). I was happy to see two locals on the list, but would love to see some more. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to see Lavery Dulachan fall in at number 12. Lavery is from Erie, PA. They are fairly new to Philly, but their beers are beginning to gain some big followers in Philly. I am personally a huge fan of the brewery.

    Most Searched-For Breweries – Winter 2012-13

    1.Russian River (CA)
    2.Bell’s (MI)
    3.Troegs (PA)
    4.Founders (MI)
    5.Dogfish Head (DE)
    6.Stone (CA)
    7.Firestone Walker (CA)
    8.Hill Farmstead (VT)
    9.Evolution (MD)
    10.Goose Island (IL)

    PTF’s Reaction: Really no surprises here, except one. Evolution (Salisbury, MD) has been making a big push in the Philly market. I’m personally a huge fan of the brewery so it’s great to see that others are as well. Evolution was also the “featured brewery” on the PhillyTapFinder homepage for much of this season. It was personally satisfying to see that this position is beneficial to a brewery; it gets more PhillyTapFinder users to see their incredible offerings.

    It was interesting to see how evenly divided the top-ranked breweries were by geography: 3 West Coast, 4 East Coast, and 3 Midwest.

    Most Searched-For Style – Winter 2012-13
    1.IPA
    2.Stout
    3.Sour/Wild-Fermented
    4.Pumpkin

    PTF’s reaction: The IPA still reigns supreme and I don’t think that will change. Philly simply loves hops. Seasonality, however, certainly made a difference in this category as stouts placed second and pumpkin beers placed fourth.

    Hope that you enjoyed seeing these numbers as much as I did. Some things will never change in Philly (IPAs, Russian River, etc.), but we did see some impact of the changes in season and some bars that previously did not make the top five list are making a big push. Look for the Spring post in a few months.

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  2. Commenting on an old post but… XX Bitter has no brett in it. Apparently there were some errant descriptions on the importers website a while back that may have caused a small myth.

    That beer should be a Belg IPA through and through. Hops, big yeast, firm bitterness.

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