Well, it took almost three years, but Monnik Beer Co. is finally open in Germantown, just across the street from Check’s Café. And you know what? It was totally worth the wait.
The space at 1036 E. Burnett Ave., the former home of Zeppelin Café, is clean and inviting, there are plenty of taps pouring fresh beer, and there is already a buzz that is helping make the brewery and taproom a place to be. The food menu is brief but deliciously diverse, and the beer is not just on point, but outstanding.
There have been times when the delay has dragged on so long, it has been joked about; owners Brian Holton and Ian Luijk were never joking, however, and they have delivered.
I went to Monnik twice over the holiday weekend, and the first thing I am going to say is this: Monnik’s IPA, to my palate, is probably the best in the city right now. I have tasted most of the Monnik beers, and they all are excellent, but that one really nails it for me. (Case in point: They had run out of the stuff by the time I made my second visit, so I guess I’m not alone.)
I also tried three of the menu items and was impressed by all three. No, this is not a fine cuisine experience — it’s a brewery and taproom — but what is better than a cozy room that serves fresh beer and good pub food? Not much. Monnik has already leaped to the top of the heap in that regard.
Friends told me the beer cheese and spent grain bread was a highlight, so when my girlfriend Cynthia, our friend Jessica and I went, that was what I insisted we order. The beer cheese was mild, thick and rather basic, almost resembling pimento cheese without the pimento. But the bread? Yeah, it’s delicious, soft and would taste good by itself or with just about anything else spread on it. Spent grains usually go to local farms to feed livestock, but this is a great way to repurpose the husks for the taproom — on top of that, it’s a beautiful pairing, because the bread and lightly tangy cheese balance each other so nicely.
The 12-item menu also has a starter called curry baked beans on soda bread, a take on an English pub classic. We tried that as well, and it was simple, affordable and, well, kind of brilliant. The sweet baked beans were fresh and cooked plump, with just the right amount of curry, and the soda bread was an inch thick, soft and delicious. I was scooping up excess beans from the basket in which the appetizer was delivered like a greedy miser. They were that tasty.
Cynthia and I went back a few days later after a friend told me about the Bier Burger, which is not on the menu but apparently is going to be in the very near future. We each got one, and they came out quickly (kudos to the Monnik kitchen staff, by the way) with hand-cut fries.
The burgers are served on thick and soft wheat buns, and the best way I can describe the single-patty burgers are that they are sort of like the ultimate Steak ’N’ Shake tribute. The burger I had was thin, cooked crisp on the outside, yet medium rare inside, and hanging off the bun. I’ve had better burgers, but it was quite tasty, topped with the aforementioned beer cheese, beer mustard, onion rings and pickles.
Cynthia ordered hers with the beer mustard on the side, which gave us a chance to really experience it, and it had quite a nice kick. She also ordered a side of curry ketchup, and it was a sweet and mildly spicy complement to the fries.
As noted, the menu is fairly brief, yet not simple — in fact, it’s quite well designed, with nods to English pub favorites in the curry beans and Mokie’s Pie, which comes in two versions, pork and currant and roasted root vegetables.
There are a pair of house burgers, which look to be every bit as promising as the Bier Burger, as well as a neighborhood-appropriate sauerbraten, not to mention smoked trout with poached egg, and War Fries, which are french fries served with Dutch mayo, peanut sauce and chopped onions. Nothing is priced over $12. (We also heard good things about the fried kalette salad.)
If you’ve not tried the beer, get ready for a lengthy and tasty tour. Ranging from an accessible and low-octane English mild (Mild George) to a zesty ginger saison to a 9.0 ABV Sour Cyanator, a doppelbock aged in a sour barrel and whiskey barrel. For beginners, there’s the crisp and drinkable Hauck’s Pilsner, named in tribute to Hauck’s Handy Store, just a few blocks away. The point is, there will no doubt be something to satisfy your taste buds.
Again, it was a long wait for Monnik’s opening, but well worth it. Now I just have to hope they won’t run out of IPA again.