Beer Scout: Thirsty Monk brews again

BREW LIKE A MONK: From left, Norm Penn, Barry Bialik and Chall Gray are ready for the second debut of Thirsty Monk beers. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

“It’s like being under a coconut waterfall surrounded by naked women.” Thirsty Monk Brewer Norm Penn says that’s one of the ways he’s heard CoCoNorm Coconut Porter described. The porter, one of the most popular beers at the former Thirsty Monk in Gerber Village, has not been seen around Asheville for more than a year.

Yes, former is correct. The Thirsty Monk in Gerber Village, which opened in October 2009, shut down last week and will not re-open as a Thirsty Monk. According to Thirsty Monk owner Barry Bialik and vice president Chall Gray, the plan is to open it to the public again in September with a new concept. “From what we can tell, it’s a new and radical idea that nobody has done yet across the country,” says Gray. 

While we’ll have to wait for September to see what happens at Gerber, Thirsty Monk will rechristen Biltmore Park’s location as the Thirsty Monk Brewpub and Taproom with a five-beer release party on Thursday, Aug. 28.

Why the rebrand? 

“Our Biltmore location is where we’ll debut the Thirsty Monk beers as they’re released, and it will be the only place to taste all the beers,” says Gray. “We hope to get some of them to the other locations, but there will always be [exclusives] to Biltmore Park.”

Which Monk is which?

If it’s hard to keep up with the various Thirsty Monk locations and plans, that’s because the company has had a busy few years. The Monk currently owns or leases property at five locations in Asheville.

There’s the original downtown location, of course. It will continue to be what Bialik calls “the candy store” of the Monks with the largest selection: Belgian beers, American craft beers and craft cocktails.

The new Woodfin location is meant to be more of a neighborhood pub and will stay that way, notes Gray. “We might look at putting some games in there, like ping-pong or foosball,” says Gray. “People are also coming for the food. … It’s a convenient place to get a bite to eat off I-26 heading out of Asheville,” says Gray. 

That leaves three other Monk properties: the aforementioned Biltmore Park, which will now be the Brewpub and Taproom; the Gerber Village location, which will have a new concept shortly; and a future brewery planned at 92 Thompson St.

The breweries and the beers

For the immediate future, Penn will brew on a newly installed 3.5-barrel brewery at Gerber Village and transport beers to Biltmore Park before they’re ready to serve. “Our location in Biltmore Park is licensed as a brewery so we can take beer in large vessels to brite tanks at Biltmore and finish it from there,” says Bialik. “We’re basically doing the hot work at one location and getting ready to serve it at another.” There will also be dedicated space for barrel aging. 

In 2015, the plan is to move the brewing operation to a 15-barrel setup at Thompson Street. That location will be the home of future festivals as well. “It’s a nice place with a view of the mountains,” says Gray. “In terms of size and space, it’s sort of like the Bywater…it doesn’t have the river, but it will have a brewery!” 

The beers will pick up where they left off, largely a mix of American and Belgian styles created at Penn’s whim. He still had the beer in tanks at the time of writing, but he provided a short description for what will hit the taps first, on the Aug. 28 event in Biltmore Park:

  • Pale Ale (5.9 ABV / 45  IBU): “This is fairly aggressive for a pale ale,” says Penn. “I used Belma hops as well as Cascade, so it’s piny and grassy.”
  • Rye Pale Ale (5.4 ABV / 35 IBU): “The Rye Pale is very malt-based,” says Penn. “It has some citrusy hops come through, but it’s all malt in the middle. … The rye helps it have a nice, dry finish for such a malty beer.”
  • Bent Creek India Pale Ale (6.7 ABV / 50 IBU): “This was one of our most popular beers back when we were brewing before,” says Penn. “It’s West Coast style but with more balance. … It has a citrus and mango aroma from the hops.”
  • Porter (6.2 ABV / 35 IBU): “The porter is a good, malty porter. … It’s actually what I use as a base for the CocoNorm,” says Penn. “It’s a hybrid between English and American-style porters. It has a nice chocolate character.”
  • Belgian Blonde (6.8 ABV / 25 IBU): “The Blonde is very Belgiany…meaning you’ll get banana and clove on the nose and spice all the way through the finish,” says Penn.



Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.