The Monk’s Cellar Brewery and Public House in Downtown Roseville has been bringing a taste of Belgium to the West Coast for more than five years.
It all started when owner Andy Klein became acquainted with the beer culture of Europe during trips abroad when he was in high school and college. He quickly learned that beer was not meant to be mindlessly chugged, but to be enjoyed in the same way the Belgians do: one sip at a time. While kids his age were drinking to get drunk, he was drinking to take his taste buds on an adventure.
The impression the Belgians left on him was lasting: “It would be amazing to see people sitting there for hours sipping beers and socializing,” Klein says. “It was so different than what I was used to seeing. I gained an appreciation for not only the actual taste of beer, but the beer culture.”
Fast forward to today. Klein is now a well-seasoned brewer with more than 25 years of brewing experience under his belt and more than 80 medals to prove it. As the owner of The Monk’s Cellar, his goal has been to bring the flavors and culture of Belgium’s storied beer history to his community. The Monk’s Cellar has a nice lineup of both in-house and guest taps, as well as a full bar and food that complements it well.
We interviewed Andy to dive deeper into his beer background and to get his rare opinion on the state of the beer scene in our area over the last few decades. He graduated from the UC Davis Brewers Program in the early ‘90s and brewed at Sacramento Brewing Company, which was one of the region’s first beer meccas. Aside from visiting The Monk’s Cellar, you can try Klein’s brews at this year’s Art of Beer, or at a store near you later in the year when he expands his business to include the sale of cans.
How did you get into beer?
It really goes way back to 1987. It was my Junior year of high school, and I had gone on my first trip to Germany. That trip is when I really got introduced to beer. I remember immediately recognizing that it was very different there than I was used to in the United States. The flavors were so much more complex. During that trip, I recognized that beer wasn’t just a way to get drunk—I was a teen back then mind you—but it was really a whole cultural experience. I gained an appreciation for not only the actual taste of beer, but the beer culture.
When did you know you wanted to turn your love for European beer culture into your life’s work?
The pivotal moment was when I went to Europe in my college years. I traveled to Germany once more and other places including Switzerland, France, Austria, Italy and Belgium. I really immersed myself in Belgian styles in particular in this trip. That’s where the inspiration for The Monk’s Cellar lies. I learned that beer was really something to be respected and appreciated.
You brewed at one of the first places to do it in Sacramento: Sacramento Brewing Company. What are some notable ways in which the industry has changed? Are you surprised by how receptive Sacramento has been to beer?
When I started the UC Davis Brewers Program in 1995, I was also working at Sacramento Brewing Co. There were only five breweries back then … now there are over 80 breweries and counting in our region. I am not surprised at all by this growing number. Our region has always been receptive to new things. The Sacramento farm-to-fork culture has also worked in our favor. It’s always been great for experimentation and freshness. People are also more educated than ever and willing to try and embrace new, exciting flavors. One thing I have noticed is people want real flavors, not artificial, and they truly like things local.
Brewing is hard work. There is a lot of physical labor involved. Has the process of brewing become easier since your Sacramento Brewing Company days? Have advancements in technology streamlined stuff?
Not really! It’s still generally as labor-intensive now as it was back then. The only big change has been ingredients. There are a lot more varieties of ingredients, notably hops. There are so many different hops to choose from these days, and hop breeding programs are pretty huge. Years ago, hops were more known for their herbal flavor profiles. Now, there are so many hops with lots of different nuanced flavors. Now, you can get so many subtle notes like tropical, citrus … It goes on and on. Sometimes, if the hop flavor is rare or new, it can be very competitive for a brewery to get their hands on some. For example, there is a type of Strata hop that grows up in Washington that is really popular right now. Hops take a decent size of land to grow, and you can only grow so much at a time. That’s why things can get so competitive, especially if it’s a lucrative hop variety. The process of brewing has remained generally the same for me over the years, the ingredients have been the large shift.
What is your tap lineup like at The Monk’s Cellar right now? How popular are your Belgian options?
We focus on a nice mix of styles, some of them being made right in house. We have some great Belgian, European beers on tap, as well as hoppy stuff, stouts and classical beer. Right now, Pastry Stouts seem to be popular and hazy styles also continue to be popular. I’ve noticed that Belgian beer has been on the decline because people seem to want big and bold flavors right now. People also like hop-heavy flavors and high ABVs. Hops in Belgium beers are the opposite of that. Belgian beers are more about malts, sweetness, spice and subtle fruit.
What’s the most exciting beer style to you right now and why?
Definitely a nice West Coast IPA. This style is making a resurgence for good reason. It is fresh and showcases hops very well. I like a nice big bitterness well-represented.
You guys are participating in this year’s Art of Beer. What do you have planned?
This is our fifth or sixth time participating in Art of Beer. It is such a nice complement to beer. Beer is science, but it is also art … It’s crazy to think how two breweries can use the exact same recipe but can come out with completely different beer.
We will be pouring a super fresh hazy IPA. In fact, it is still in the fermenter and doesn’t even have a name. We will also be bringing a Belgian Quad that we brewed in-house and our Beer Blanche, which is one of our staple house beers. It pairs nicely with a lot of food and has some great coriander and orange peel notes.
Brewery aspirations for 2020?
One big thing is that we will be doing a little more bottling/packaged product. We hope to buy our own canning machine this year. Stay tuned!
The Monk’s Cellar is located at 240 Vernon St., Roseville. You’ll be able to sample the brewery’s offerings at this year’s Art of Beer Invitational, which will take place at the McClellan Conference Center at 5411 Luce Ave., Sacramento on Friday, Jan. 24. Proceeds from the event will go to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. For more info on the Art of Beer, go to Artofbeerinvitational.com. To learn more about The Monk’s Cellar, go to Monkscellar.com.
**This piece first appeared in print on pages 16 – 17 of issue #309 (Jan. 15 – 29, 2020)**