Where to find good beer
If you have blinked recently, you may have missed the craft beer surge taking place to our north in the not-so-sleepy-anymore hamlet of Denton. The blocks and miles surrounding the county square, with its iconic and historic Romanesque county courthouse, have just become dirty with good craft beer in a very short time.
In what may be the greatest single concentration of craft beer establishments in all of Texas, on and within walking distance of the square you find the Oak Street Drafthouse, East Side, Mellow Mushroom, Harvest House and Denton’s first brewpub, Barley & Board. Not very much further from downtown are Audacity Brew House and what will be the future home of Armadillo Ale Works, and Lewisville’s Lone Star Taps & Caps just opened a satellite branch not far away.
One thing was still missing in this abundance of craft beer brewing and retail, something that was solved when Ben Esely opened The Bearded Monk last year. Situated just steps from East Side and the beloved Recycled Books, The Bearded Monk is a bottle shop and growler fill bar with 21 beers on tap and hundreds more available on its shelves and coolers. (A second brewpub, Denton County Brewing Company, is slated to open this year just next door.)
But the missing element referred to here is not the retail bottle biz — Taps & Caps and others will fill that gap very quickly. What Esely brought to this area with The Bearded Monk that no one else had is pub culture. This area has literally hundreds of craft beer taps, including some in-house Denton and now guest brewpub beers from Dallas, but no one had yet introduced a true pub into the mix.
A craft beer bar is not automatically a pub. The Bearded Monk has everything that all other beer stores have: industrial shelving full of bottles for sale, a bar to service on-site pints or growler fills, plenty of branded swag and merch. However, a pub (short for “public house”) is a community touchpoint, more than just a spot to enjoy the latest craft creation but a place to socialize and actually spend time with more than simply craft beer interests.
Sure, the tables and chairs get moved around regularly so local bands can play. Yes, special beer events, themed tap takeovers, and beer and food pairings happen, as do constant informal craft bottle shares. But rotating poetry readings and yoga classes are also held in the bar, as is a monthly community market for local arts and small businesses. A mural was painted on the side of the building as part of fundraising for the Denton arts scene, and interior walls showcase Denton artists.
Esely has already involved his business in local events — events not necessarily focused around craft beer. A fundraiser was held for victims of a local house fire, as have similar events for local festivals and animal rescues and breast cancer and cycling clubs. In this way, The Bearded Monk is becoming a part of the local residents’ lives and not just a retail venture, which is what makes a pub a rare and treasured find.
Watch out, Big D. Little D is rapidly shifting the craft beer center of gravity to the north.
The Bearded Monk
122 E. McKinney Street