As you may have heard, and as we’ve been reporting since about a year ago, the team behind popular beer-geek haven Monk’s Kettle is opening an even bigger beer-geek haven, Abbot’s Cellar (742 Valencia). Construction is nearing completion on the space, which is in the former auto body complex that is also home to Craftsman & Wolves (opening tomorrow), and they hope to be open by mid-July. They’ll be serving a full food menu from Monk’s chef Adam Dulye, and a focused beer list (with some wine) that’s all meant to pair well with food. Grub Street chatted today with owner and cellar master Christian Albertson, who’s a recognized beer expert in these parts, to hear more about what we can expect.
Tell us first about the food menu. Will it be a lot longer than the one at Monk’s Kettle?
Christian Albertson: The menu might be a little bit bigger, but it’ll be completely different. Adam’s looking at about five to seven appetizers, and five to seven entrees, but the centerpiece will be a daily changing prix-fixe of either three or five courses with specific beer pairings. The whole restaurant is going to be about the relationship between the food and the beverage program. There will be wine, too, but to a lesser extant. Basically I’ll be sitting down each week with Adam, and my co-beer director Mike Reis, and we’ll discuss menus for the week which will vary depending on ingredients available and the beers we have coming in from brewers.
For about three years we did beer dinners at Monk’s about once a month — now we do about six a year. We would generally design courses around the beers we wanted to feature, and the same idea will be true here.
Also, we’re putting in a stone oven in the kitchen which gets up to 1000 degrees, and we think that will probably mostly be used for meats. But we’re waiting to see what comes out of it and what takes off, food-wise. It’s a gas-powered oven but you can add wood to it for smoke and flavor.
OK, so now talk about the beer program. Will it be broader than at Monk’s?
Actually, it will be more focused. Where at Monk’s we kind of have like the encyclopedia of beer, this will be more like the dictionary. The biggest criteria for the beer is its food-friendliness. The list will be in the range of 120 beers total, where at Monk’s it’s more like 200 at any given time. At Abbot’s we’re taking off most of the high-ABV (alcohol by volume) stuff because it doesn’t pair well with food. Extreme beer and all these barrel-aged beers and stuff is all great, but we’re trying to get more nuanced flavors and to pick up the subtlety of the food as well as the beer, and how they go together.
We’ll have 22 taps, but a total of 30 to 35 beers by the glass. We don’t know of anyone else who’s doing a glass list for beer from the bottle, with large format bottles and such, but we’ll be doing that. Every restaurant in the world has a by the glass program for wine, but no one’s doing it for beer outside of tap beer. And, you know, it’s important also because certain beers, like Belgian trippels, taste much better after being bottle-conditioned.
And what will the space look like once it’s done? We understood it would be like a beer hall?
There will be a ten-person community table, a twelve-seat chef’s counter, and an eight-person bar, but there will actually be a lot of individual tables and booths. A total of about 100 seats. There’s an open kitchen right alongside the bar. As far as the decor we really worked with the elements that were there: 25-foot ceiling, wooden trusses and rafters across a wood roof, and we’ve added some reclaimed barn wood on one wall.
Then in back there’s a two-story beer cellar clad in stone with a couple of windows on the side. It’ll store up to 80 kegs and 400 cases of beer at the optimal temperature of 55 degrees. We’re actually trying to serve every beer at its optimal temperature, be it 40 degrees for a lager like Mahr’s Kellerbier Ungespundet, or 55 degrees for a barleywine like 2004 Baladin Xyauyu.
Also our furniture designer is building these really cool tables with panels on the side and there will be a box built into each one where the beer list can live. It gets rid of the awkwardness of wanting to hold on to the list but not knowing where to put it on the table.
Are there going to be any special beer selections you’ll be featuring from the outset?
We’ll be pulling from the cellar at Monk’s Kettle, and featuring some stuff we’ve been selling for the last few years — my co-director Mike and I have been deciding what we have to work with. We’ve got a 2007 La Folie, and we’ll be pulling out some cellared sour beers like Cantillon from southeastern Brussels. We’ll be putting some nice magnums on the menu too, like Rochefort 8 from the last couple of years. We also have a three-liter of 2009 Consecration, Batch 2, from Russian River.
So, will it be dinner only? Any plans for brunch?
No plans for brunch yet. But maybe, eventually. We’re definitely not thinking about that yet. Opening next month — we’re saying mid-July to be safe, but everything looks to be on schedule.
Abbot’s Cellar - 742 Valencia Street - Open seven days a week at 5 p.m., until 11 p.m. on weeknights, and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, starting mid-July.