After five years and a steady increase in distribution, Bend’s Monkless Belgian Ales is opening a restaurant—a Brasserie—in what local Bendites call the “red building” in Bend. Monkless Belgian Ales began brewing in 2014 on a 1-barrel system at Todd and Robin Clement’s house. In fall of 2016, the beer began coming out of the current brewing location on High Desert Lane, a 10-barrel brewhouse with two 10-barrel fermentors and a 10-barrel brite tank, and 30-barrel and 40-barrel unitanks.
I met up with Todd and Robin to discuss their upcoming opening, and what that might mean for their brewery. When I asked why they decided to open a restaurant, Owner/Brewer Todd Clement said, “It was always a part of the plan,” and that it was about “finding the right location and the right timing.” In the end, those two things didn’t line up. Timing wise, they were shooting for the summer of 2020, but the perfect location became available to them last April, and they jumped on it.
The “red building” has been vacant for more than a year while undergoing major renovation and upgrades, including the deck, which overlooks the Deschutes River near the Old Mill District. The large deck has been covered to add shade and is the perfect place to watch people float down the river on a hot day. Monkless also plans on doing their own upgrades to the space to make it more current. They hope to open as soon as possible, or as soon as local permitting allows. The goal is early fall.
The restaurant will be authentically Belgo style. The Clements were especially excited about pommes frites. The food will be upscale traditional. Todd talked about walking down the streets of Belgium eating pommes frites with mayonnaise (a popular condiment there). Initially, it will open with an abbreviated menu this fall, and expect to expand that menu in the spring. Chef Gary Shelly, who trained in San Francisco, will be their Chef, and Monkless is excited to have him. While in San Francisco, Shelly worked in Michelin star restaurants. He decided to move to Bend and became the executive chef at The Citizen, and then cooked for Bos Taurus. He and the Clements are currently working on their menu planning.
The area has been up and coming over the last couple of years, with the Old Box Factory building being inhabited by Immersion Brewing, AVID cider, an awesome cold brew coffee place called RIFF, and a few restaurants as well. It’s near both Old Mill District and Downtown Bend, as well as Spoken Moto, which is a food truck lot, coffee shop, live music venue and tap house.
The Clements feel that this location will be a perfect fit for their vision for their Brasserie. They hope to have the grassy area on the lower level of the Red Building open and OLCC licensed, ultimately, and hope to have a dog friendly area included. There may be a possibility of dog friendly seating on the deck as well, but that is still in the planning stages and just too early to tell.
Monkless will continue brewing in its current location, and once the restaurant is open the taproom hours will be reduced to weekends and possibly one weekday.
I asked if they would have authentic beers from Belgium on tap, and they said probably not, but there would be a bottle selection, because traditional Trappist beers are bottled. They plan on serving Belgian flights. Those flights will be paired with food. An example they provided, was a flight of Tripels that would include one of their beers, and two other beers, like a Karmeliet. Robin Clement said to think “highly curated flights and intentional food pairings.”
This is what will set them apart from other standard brewpubs in the area and will bring something new and unique to Central Oregon to match the brand and beer. They are excited to be able to serve their beer alongside traditional Belgian beers.
I enjoyed their SMASH (single malt and single hop) beer called Brothers’ Bier while interviewing them. The beer sits at 4.8% ABV and 32 IBU, so is very drinkable. The yeast in Brother’s Bier is the same as in Trinity, Monkless’ tripel-style ale. The beer is earthy and you get the lightest touch of Sterling hops in both the aroma and flavor. Its wonderfully delicious Belgian flavors come through in a way that doesn’t mask the hop completely. An impressive feat of balance.
While interviewing, a gentleman stopped by to say hi. He walked up and said, “I’m part of the story.” He was their very first employee. It was cool to see how they treated him like a part of the family. He sat down with us and had a beer. This was a telling moment that showed me how passionate the Clements are about their Belgian beer. They want to bring this style of beer to people. They were excited to talk about people coming into their taproom saying that they don’t like beer, but then try Monkless’ beer and thoroughly enjoy it. They want to educate people about Belgian beer and believe that it makes the community a better place because they have more options available to them.
At the end of our interview, Todd poured a taster of Trinity and walked me through it. It reminded me why I write about beer. Todd said Trinity is his favorite beer and that it is three times as good in a bottle (exactly three times, Todd says, no more no less). In good cellaring conditions he recommends Trinity age at least a year. Trinity was the first beer Todd ever brewed, but isn’t exactly the same recipe as it was then. He tweaked it a little over the years. Trinity has a beautiful light maltiness and the yummy tropical, banana tasting yeast is the star for sure. Todd says about the yeast, “you let it do its thing,” and it brings up the spiciness, the fruity esters. I’m really excited to have Monkless’ Brassiere opening up in Bend. Let the countdown begin!
My name is Heidi Howard. I am a craft beer enthusiast turned freelance beer writer from beautiful, beer-centric Bend, Oregon. What makes me a worthy beer writer? I've been judging beer since 2015, and have LOTS of experience drinking craft beer. I have explored breweries all over the Country, from Washington to Florida and a bunch of places in between. I take the fun of craft beer very seriously! My goal in writing is to bring people into the craft beer world by explaining beer in a way that both newbie and experienced craft beer drinkers understand and enjoy.