Carolina Beer Guy: Thirsty Monk announces national expansion

WESTWARD HO: Asheville's Thirsty Monk pubs and brewing company is opening operations in Denver, Colo., and Portland, Ore. Photo courtesy Thirsty Monk

Asheville’s Thirsty Monk pub and Belgian-style brewing company is expanding to two Western U.S. beer cities — Denver, Colo., and Portland, Ore. — owner Barry Bialik announced Thursday.

The company will close next week on a 12-barrel brewing location in Denver and will also take over a taproom in Portland in November, Bialik says. Brian Grace, who previously worked at the Crooked Stave and Jolly Pumpkin breweries, has been hired as head brewer for the Monk’s western operations.

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual at the two Thirsty Monk pubs in downtown Asheville and Biltmore Park, as well as at Brother Joe’s Coffee Pub in South Asheville. Norm Penn, who has been the Monk’s Asheville brewer, will continue his usual duties but has been promoted to vice president of the company, Bialik says.

The concept in Denver and Portland is to create brewing “hubs” rather than a single big production brewery expansion, Bialik explains. “These are top beer cities in the West, and we wanted to have a presence there to connect them with Asheville,” he says. “We want to learn from the successes in Portland and Denver and combine them with what we are doing in Asheville to make even better beer.”

He adds that he is also “looking at some other markets” for expansion. “We will never be a brewery putting beer into grocery stores. Our model is still the pub model with very limited distribution.”

Some familiar Asheville Monk beers, such as Brother Noah, made with French Broad Chocolates products, could be made with chocolate sourced locally in Denver and Portland, he says.

Here is more from Thirsty Monk’s Facebook announcement about the expansion:

From Barry Bialik, Thirsty Monk Owner and CEO:

Denver and Portland will be much more than just second homes to Thirsty Monk, We will embrace the beer, food, and craft cultures in each of the cities, and operate as a true local brewery and pub. Thirsty Monk has always been about sharing beer knowledge and the European pub culture. Being in Denver and Portland will help us learn from some of the country’s best craft beer markets, and to design beers influenced by all the communities we call home.

Asheville brewing operations will remain under the tutelage of Norm Penn, who has been promoted to Vice President of Thirsty Monk. Thirsty Monk Downtown and Biltmore Park will continue to serve the growing selection of Thirsty Monk beers along side curated, rotating guest taps. As our Brother Noah Belgian Chocolate Stout is brewed in Asheville using chocolate nibs from our friends at French Broad Chocolate, Brother Noah brewed in Denver will utilize a local Colorado chocolatier and Brother Noah brewed in Portland will be made with local Oregon chocolate.

So, here’s the plan:

Thirsty Monk will close on the purchase of a 12-Barrel existing brewery in Denver this month and will start immediate beer production there. Plans include a remodel of the existing taproom, slated for grand opening after Thanksgiving 2017. Head Brewer Brian Grace will be based in Denver, brewing Thirsty Monk beers and spearheading the creation of open fermentation, barrel aging and sour programs.

In November, Thirsty Monk will close on the purchase of a well-known Portland beer bar. Operations will continue under the Portland location’s existing name until sometime early 2018, when it will shift to serve Thirsty Monk beers out of Denver. Thirsty Monk also plans to install a small batch brewhouse in its Portland location, and serve a selection of guest taps while brewing operations get going.

We’re expanding Thirsty Monk in a whole new way, linking a network of localized brewing hubs. Smart growth, craft-style! Our soul, creative spirit and community roots are what we and our beers are all about, and we remain committed to building upon those roots as we continue to grow.

Thanks for reading and for all of your support! We look forward to branching out, learning and continuing to make great beer while deepening our Asheville roots, and planting new roots in our new Denver CO, and Portland, OR homes. Cheers!


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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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