Ecliptic Brewing founder John Harris created the world’s best-selling Black Butte Porter when he was at Deschutes Brewery in the 80’s, his modern updated take Capella Porter has also racked up the accolades.
“We just this week decided to pack it up out there for good,” Thirsty Monk owner Barry Bialik told the New School.
Thirsty Monk operates multiple bars and breweries in Colorado, and Asheville, North Carolina area where it was founded in 2008. The Thirsty Monk pubs specialize in showcasing authentic Belgian Abbey ales and other classic Monastic styles of European ales as well as their own in-house brewed beers that follow in those traditions. In 2017 Thirsty Monk expanded operations from Asheville into a brewpub in Denver, CO and purchased Portland’s European-style beer bar Bazi Bierbrasserie, reopening it as Thirsty Monk PDX in 2018.
Thirsty Monk had struggled with their Portland operation almost since the beginning. Part of the business plan was to open an on-site brewery behind the pub, but that fell through for a variety of factors related to the building. Owner Barry Bialik had been in Portland numerous times in 2019 scouting for a new location to move the business, or to open a brewery side of the local operation at a detached space from the current one.
“It’s certainly one of the weaknesses of being a taproom centric brewery, as opposed to a wide distributing brewery. If the taprooms are closed, we have no revenue,” says Bialik. “It really takes so much extra attention and monitoring of details to keep our one space open right now with all the safety measures, and it’s like walking on a razor blade every time an employee has a cough or a headache.”
Thirsty Monk’s Portland pub had just recently remodeled their space to welcome new food service partner Tight Tacos and was closed February 8-28th before reopening at the end of the month. Tight Tacos had operated two Portland food trucks but their Hawthorne Blvd. truck located outside Growler’s Taproom was forced to close in January. Bialik was looking for a way to freshen up the local Thirsty Monk pub and reached out to Tight Tacos when he heard the news that they were losing their home. After closing for 20 days, Thirsty Monk and Tight Tacos were reopened for only 20 more days before Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered bars closures.
During the 3+ month shutdown of dine-in/drink on-premise service in Portland, Tight Tacos continued to operate for pick-up and takeout but have now thrown in the towel at this location as of July 14th. Thirsty Monk never reopened for on-premise consumption, even after Multnomah County entered phase 1 of reopening.
“Tight Tacos was continuing to operate while we have been shut, but they’ve decided they can’t continue at that location either. Besides the virus, the homeless have just completely taken over the building and the surrounding area,” said Thirsty Monk owner Barry Bialik.
Tight Tacos announced their Thirsty Monk location has permanently closed but continues to sell tacos and nachos from their northeast Portland brick-and-mortar at The Zipper.
Thirsty Monk’s Pub’s in Denver is also in danger of not reopening. Brewer Brian Grace has opted to leave the industry completely and the narrow and intimate pub that is primarily bar seating is not conducive to the social distanced times we live in.
Currently only one of Thirsty Monk’s locations is Asheville is open but they plan to reopen more safely in time.
“We need to hunker down and make sure our company as a whole can survive this all,” says Bialik.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.