Yesterday we first reported the news that Asheville, North Carolina based Thirsty Monk would soon take over Bazi Bierbrasserie in Southeast Portland. Upon hearing this news we were saddened to hear that Hilda Stevens, a good friend and an overall generous person will be leaving our beer community here in Portland as she sells here Belgian inspired beer bar to Barry Bialik of Thirsty Monk.
During this ownership transition that is expected to close in mid-December Hilda will stay on to assist in the transition. There is also a good chance that she may be around after this to keep this process running smoothly. She will then decide on her next step that will most likely take her to be closer to her family in Texas.
With this news we also reached out to Thirsty Monk owner Barry Bialik to learn more about his interest in opening a location in the Rose City. Thirsty Monk was founded in 2008 in Asheville, NC and brews Belgian inspired beers along with serving other exceptional world-class beers. It currently operates Thirsty Monk Downtown, Thirsty Monk Biltmore Park, Top of the Monk craft cocktail bar, and Brother Joe’s Coffee Pub, all in Asheville.
Just as Thirsty Monk takes over Bazi it is also taking over the former Deep Draft Brewing in Denver, Colorado. Here it will operate a 12-barrel brewhouse led by Brian Grace who began his brewing career at Moylan’s and has since held positions as Head Brewer at Crooked Stave and Production Manager at Jolly Pumpkin. He will now become Head Brewer of all of Thirsty Monk’s brewing operations.
When it comes to ties to the Pacific Northwest, Barry spent time living in Seattle and Anchorage. It is here where he developed his passion for great quality beer in an inviting atmosphere. His wife has deeper roots to our city as she lived in Portland for 17 years prior to moving to Asheville. They will now use this synergy to build a solid connection to both communities.
Upon receiving the news yesterday of Thirsty Monk purchasing Bazi Bierbrasserie we sent Barry a few questions to learn more about his reasoning on entering Portland’s developed craft beer market and what to expect over the coming months.
Why did you decide to enter the highly competitive Portland craft beer market? Barry Bialik: Because I am a Northwest person. I’ve lived in Alaska and Seattle most of my adult life, and my wife lived in Portland for 17 years before moving to Asheville. Portland is a city where some of the people we love the most in the world happen to live. And there just so happens to be a kick ass beer culture. We are choosing to put Thirsty Monks in the cities we want to spend more time in. Portland certainly is on tops of that list.
How long have you been pursing a location here in Portland? Barry: I’ve been scoping out the perfect fit since about July 4th when we came up here to begin the search.
What will make Thirsty Monk stand out amongst all of the other brewpubs and breweries in Portland? Barry: We are a little different than anything else I’ve seen in Portland. Most places choose the path of being a great single brewery taproom or a beer bar. We specialize in being the balance of both. In Asheville we offer our house beer along side one of the best curated guest tap lists in town. Our balance for Portland will be about 50% our house brewed Belgian-Rooted Modern Ales and 50% of the best rotating taps in the world.
On the choice of taking over Bazi Bierbrasserie, was this your first choice? Barry: Once Bazi became available for sale, there was no other choice to even think about. Bazi and Monk have been on the same paths since inception.
What changes do you expect to make at Bazi? Barry: Hilda and crew have done such an amazing job in staying true to what Bazi is about, there’s not much to change. We have a few efficiency tricks we’ve learned along the way of our growing path, but the main think our patrons will see is the addition of our exclusive Thirsty Monk house brewed Belgian-Rooted Modern Ales.
“Walking into Bazi for the first time felt like walking into the Thirsty Monk downtown Asheville Belgian Bar. I felt as if I had traveled across the seas and walked in to a local pub in a small Belgian town. That experience is exactly what Thirsty Monk and Bazi have both been offering our loyal patrons since we independently opened. We’ve just been doing it on opposite sides of the country. Now we will do that together, and in Denver!” – Barry Bialik, Owner of Thirsty Monk
Have you hired a brewer for Portland? Barry: We will be. We still have to permit and install a small-batch system, which in Portland can take as long as a year I’m told. For the mean time, Portland will be provided beers by our other Monk breweries under the guise of our head brewer Brian Grace, who most recently was the head brewer at Crooked Stave in Denver, Colorado. We also may pursue Contract Brewing relationships and collaboration brews with local Portland breweries until our own brewing system is on line.
What size of brewhouse will be installed here in Portland? Barry: Probably a 5-barrel brew system. We rely equally on our local brew systems for more small batch and experimental beers and have our other breweries help support our core beers. That’s the beauty of our innovative brewing model. It allows us a lot more flexibility and to incorporate local ingredients and influence.
When do you expect to be brewing in Portland? Barry: I’ve been hearing more and more tales of the permitting process and length, but we hope to have Portland-brewed Thirsty Monk beers on line in the first quarter of 2018. Some Portland-brewed beers will also be served in Denver and Asheville.
Will the new Portland location feature beers from the new Denver brewery or from the Asheville location? Barry: Both, and from Portland. Also 50% of the taps will continue to be curated from the best beers available in the world.
Has Thirsty Monk signed with a distributor for the Portland market? Barry: Yes, Budweiser will be distributing us and actually owns us. They paid us $680 Million to open up our Portland location. FUCK NO!!! We are independent and self-distributed, and we will ONLY choose to share our brand in states that are not so BACKWARDS THINKING to disallow such independent ways of building a business. We are local-thinking and will remain independent in our distribution.
Thanks to Hilda for the fond memories that we all have from the years of Bazi Bierbrasserie and all of the great beers we enjoyed. We now look forward to the next chapter with the Thirsty Monk!
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 25 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in the archives of Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @hopapalooza.