Georgia is home to over thirty breweries, and countless more small batch brewpubs. Too many options do not always a good thing make, and you could argue that Georgia is at the forefront of brewery overchoice. It’s not that Georgia breweries lack style, or that their creations fail to excite the imagination. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling dozens of uniquely delicious and local brews. It’s the experience itself, the stuff life is made of, that suffers from lack of variety, and monotony in the Atlanta brew scene. And it’s this same focus on the encounter that became Cindy and Alan LeBlanc’s newfound mission when they set out to design The Bold Monk Brewing Company, Atlanta’s new, and very different gastro/brewery experience.
As I approached the converted warehouse in the heart of West Midtown I couldn’t help but feel uninspired by what on the surface seemed like yet another undistinguished setting – a large, open industrial space transformed. I pictured massive shiny silver vats, perhaps a small kitchen and bar, with a few well-placed catwalks thrown in for utility and effect. How original. Seconds upon entering Bold Monk I figured out just how terribly wrong my assumptions were.
It’s pretty vast, 17,000 square-feet-vast, but expertly segmented and filled quite differently than the typical warehouse remodel. Using a breathtaking combination of industrial and mid-century modern elements, the designers created a space that brought me to the warehouse that once was, while at the same time exuding a warm and inviting atmosphere. It felt like a place I’d like to spend time in, with or without a flight or two of beer.
Thoughtfully designed to help patrons choose the experience that suites them, it’s seamlessly divided into separate areas with separate purpose. First, the Salon, a large lounge area with handcrafted wood bar and plenty of space for mingling. It’s warm enough for an evening with friends, and classy and quiet enough for the ideal corporate happy hour.
If this still says brewery, it’s not. Taking advantage of recent changes to Georgia’s brewery laws, the owners were able to combine large-scale beer manufacturing with elegant dining and beverage choices. The upscale but comfortable dining room area exemplifies this intent. They do take reservations, which you’ll appreciate when you see the menu.
While there’s a clear Belgian influence throughout the whole design, this is most evident in the Cask Room, a sizeable community space off to the side with long tables designed to allow guests unreserved mobility and the camaraderie it offers. Floor-to-ceiling paneled windows give view to the expansive brewing area and add to the room’s open and inviting charm.
Walk up the modern, factory-inspired stairs to another large communal area called the Abbey which is available, and more suitable, for private events. The Abbey looks down on the brewing area through gorgeous Mondrian-influenced glasswork that’s sure to captivate even the most jaded architect.
The other side of the upstairs space is a “library loft” with comfortable, living area-seating and monestary-inspired reading material to peruse or purchase. A book store in a brewery? Yes, and yet another pleasant surprise that sets Bold Monk epochs apart from tradition.
This area also makes way outside to a planned, 5000 square-foot pet-friendly beer garden that will open when weather allows. I found myself curious to experience the vibe of this outside space in the Spring and see how it compares to the rest of the venue.
One could say that the architecture alone differentiates the Bold Monk, but the radical demarcation doesn’t stop here. Try the beer. Try all of the beer. Master brewer John “JR” Roberts’ artistic vision extends to both architecture and brew concoctions alike. JR expertly churns out brew recipes like a chef designing small plates. In a relatively short amount of time, three months since opening at the time of this article, JR offered an impressive list of ten draught Bold Monk variates to choose from.
I opted for two remarkable flights of four beers that I graciously shared with my loved one. Topping my list is the Shared Spirit IPA. Not usually a fan of IPAs, Bold Monk, in true rogue fashion, made this one more than delectable to my unrefined palate. It’s brewed with Southern Passion, a South African hops that has more than subtle notes of the fruit that it’s named after. My very non-beer-inclined drinking partner favored the Indominous Quadruple, a whopping 10.1% alcohol brew that tastes nothing like its high gravity counterparts.
If I haven’t been clear, Bold Monk is not all about the beer. Adding to what was already a rich dining experience, Chef Jason Hall’s ever evolving menu brought my evening to the next level. I’m not sure how or why I was surprised given the events of the night so far, but I somehow was. This is not brewery food. This is something else.
We started with Bitterballen, a very different appetizer-take on smoked and then fried brisket in a beet sabayon. Next came a bibb lettuce salad with avocado and seared tuna, where Chef Hall’s California styled culinary influence truly got our attention. We finished the evening with a Bold Monk specialty, Liege Wafel, a Belgian style waffle with sugar, crème fraiche and berries. Step back, beer gardens with your tasteless, head-sized soft pretzels.
The creators of Bold Monk set out to produce an experience apart from all others. One that brings people together amongst architecture that inspires, brews that surprise the senses, and over-the-top food that you’ll want to revisit, perhaps the very next day.
Somehow I don’t think monks have it this good. Perhaps the bold ones – definitely the bold ones.
Disclosure: The Bold Monk Brewing Company is open seven days a week with options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch. While we’re grateful that Bold Monk hosted us on this fine evening, as always, our opinions are our own. Chef Hall photo courtesy of Bold Monk Brewing.