Sunday, July 8, 2012

Monk's House of Ale Repute (Sioux Falls, SD)


On 8th street in the downtown area of Sioux Falls, Monk's is down near where I think the defunct (and not great ) Sioux Falls Brewing was years ago. As a kid, I remember heading to Lewis Drug just over the river, but that downtown was something to just drive through on our way to the Empire or Western malls.

However, my folks-in-law said as kids they would go to downtown Sioux Falls because that's where all of the big stores (some names I didn't recognize) were located. By the time I was a kid in the 70s and a teenager in the 80s, it seems the Empire and Western malls were up and running so that I don't remember the hey day of downtown at all. Now, the renovated old buildings make downtown a destination again for bars and restaurants and the Falls are around the corner to visit--truly worth a stop if you are near by, especially frozen and lit for Christmas.

Opening in December of 2007 (according to the bartender), I have a hard time getting to Monk's since I tend to come home on holidays when they are closed. Today is the 4th of July, but the small crowd is enough to be pouring drafts to a few locals and me. Twenty three taps from my count and several pages of bottles, this is definitely the place for beer in Sioux Falls (and maybe the midwest outside of the Twin Cities). I noticed while finding the bar again that a JL Beers has also moved in downtown, but a negative experience in Grand Forks with JL meant I didn't even swerve in my quest for Monk's.

Let's start with the name. Monk's House of Ale Repute. Very clever and I just enjoy saying that I'm going there for the pun. Very gorgeous bar of distressed metal and a pleasant, not-too-dark space that's conducive to chatting. Friendly atmosphere and clients, I've always had a chat with someone at the bar in my sporadic stops. There's a TV in the corner, but this pub isn't built to be a sports bar--beer and good conversation are clearly the point. I vaguely remember that they built it all by hand when they opened and the place has expanded into a larger sitting area and a patio (empty today in the triple digit summer heat). Not overly large, Monk's is a cozy local that serves up some great beers.

Taps include some solid classics like Delirium Tremens and Duchesse de Bourgogne and western favorites like Deschutes and Grand Teton with a few locals like Crow Peak and Brau Brothers mixed in. However, the bottle list is extensive and loaded with quality beers in a wide range of styles. I was sitting next to Jim, who introduced me to the owner Jerry Hauck. Jim argued that Monk's is the best bar between Denver and Chicago, and was willing to bypass the Twin Cities.

While chatting, Jerry and I agreed that the Twin Cities has a real advantage of distribution options plus just sheer volume of potential customers when looking at a pubs like the Muddy Pig, Happy Gnome, The Republic, Town Hall Tap or Blue Nile as a comparison. But for being in Sioux Falls, this is an outstanding selection, especially for some beers from the west that aren't often found in the cities. Jerry did acknowledge that he thought his bottle list is second to none, and I would agree. However, since my time is always limited, I've never gotten past two or three beers from the tap line that I don't have on my database (a compliment all by itself).

In chatting with Jim and Jerry, they very nicely updated my beer schedule on my drive to Denver via Omaha and Rapid City (to and fro, respectively), giving me several places to consider that I had not found in my research. Very knowledgable beer folks and a pleasure to take advice from tonight.

Jerry even divulged some new information that Monk's is going to build a brewery in the back space that he used to sell organic furniture (natural wood used from mill). While some of the plans are understandably vague at the moment, he hopes to add brewed on premise beers around December. Asked why he was adding a brewery (besides the fun of it), he said "for the fun of it".

Expanding a bit more, the motivation to have a well run brewpub in Sioux Falls seems to also be a factor. According to Jim, Sioux Falls Brewing had been very good when it opened in the late 90s and I remember reading some good reviews and that they had won several medals, which had gotten me to go there; it was obviously not good when I tasted it in 2003. Since SFB went out of business, there hasn't been a brewpub in Sioux Falls except Granite City (which we argued whether or not it's really a brewpub with the fermentus interruptus system of shipping wort from Iowa to finish locally). Regardless of your GC opinion, there isn't a brewpub in town of the quality of a Town Hall that is constantly bringing locally inspired brew to a loyal clientele. I wish them luck and hope to sample some original Monk's beer in the future.

Monk's is truly an outstanding bar and not to be missed if thirsty in South Dakota. While I don't know if it's the best beer bar in the midwest, it most definitely gives nearly every bar I know from Denver to Chicago a run for its money. Do yourself a favor and stop in at Monk's House of Ale Repute.

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