Blue Monk Buffalo has made a befitting connection with De Struise Brewery in Belgium. A collaboration between Mike Shatzel, owner of Blue Monk, and Urbain Coutteau, head brewer, founder, and co-owner at De Struise Brewery in Belgium, was inevitable given their shared interest in Belgian beer.
At a festival sponsored by Shelton Brothers importers last October in Florida, Shatzel connected with Coutteau.
“I introduced myself to Coutteau and let him know that sometimes I am able to get De Struise beers and that they sell well," Shatzel recollects. "This led to me giving him one of my Blue Monk business cards.”
“Mike handed me his business card from Blue Monk and I was struck by lightning," Coutteau said. "On his business card appeared a blueish sign of absolution by the hand of a Blue Monk. I’d brewed a beer in 2013 that I’d baptized 'Blue Monk.' It was barrel aging ever since on Chateau Margaux wine barrels. We generally bottle our barrel-aged beers after a year, but this case scenario we let the beer sit, mostly because of the lack of a good beer label.”
Elmwood Avenue craft-beer haven Blue Monk, founded by Shatzel in 2010, has been a purveyor of Belgian imported beer since its opening in 2010. This fact did not go unnoticed by Coutteau.
“A quick check on the internet kind of blew me further out of my socks," Coutteau admitted. "I learned that Mike had actually been promoting Belgian beer culture for years and years in his neck of the woods. [He's] a real ambassador towards genuine craft beer. This was too good to be true. I asked Mike if I could use his business logo on my beer label.”
“Of course I said yes!” exclaimed Shatzel.
Blue Monk Special Reserve is a 10-percent alcohol by volume dark strong ale, aged in French oak barrels from Margaux, France, for three years. The beer is dark brown with a beige head that carries an aroma and bouquet of red wine, a fruity red wine close to currants and black cherries.
The beer is accentuated by malty caramel flavors with slight hints of smoke and chocolate. Fruity red elements coming from the aging in oak wine casks from Chateau Margaux, complement these flavors with light vanilla and wood tannins.
Coutteau described the beer he dubbed Blue Monk Special Reserve.
“On the surface, Blue Monk is a dark smokey strong ale that recalls to me how I came to love barrel aging my most special Struise beers. This beer and a bunch of other barrel-aged flagships, brought me a unique community of beer aficionados from around the world to my doorstep, and whom all got carried away by above barrel-aging adventure.
"In depth, Blue Monk, is yet another beer adventure about complexity, warmth, enthusiasm, ambition to broaden the beer culture of a community, wherever in the world,” said Coutteau.
Coutteau speaks highly of Shatzel. "Mike is a real ambassador towards genuine craft beer. I asked Mike if I could use his business logo on my beer label. This is like asking somebody to hand over his most precious treasure, but Mike simply said, 'Feel free to use it whenever you like.' When I came home to Belgium, I told this story to my associates, showed them Mike's blue hand of absolution and they all concurred: 'Mike for Struise ambassador 2016.' With this title, comes the 'Blue Monk.'"
This connection between Buffalo and Belgium once again places Blue Monk squarely in the crosshairs of craft beer aficionados and international recognition and highlights the increasing connectivity of Western New York to the worldwide craft beer scene.
When Coutteau was asked if Blue Monk Special Reserve can be expected to be on tap at Blue Monk, he proclaimed, “It would be a curse if it doesn't make it to Buffalo.” No official date has been set, but a shipment of Blue Monk Special Reserve is sure to arrive soon.
Mardi Gras Party
1 p.m. Feb. 6
Flying Bison Brewing Company
840 Seneca St. (873-1557)
Kick off your Mardi Gras weekend with local beer at Flying Bison Brewing Company, a buffet and music.
Access to a buffet prepared by The Louisiana Cookery is $10 and features chicken jambalaya, red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, pulled pork sliders with homemade sauce and slaw, cheesy grits, Mazurek’s Bakery king cake and one beer ticket good for Flying Bison beer.
[Read about a king cake from Blackbird Sweets]
Customers are encouraged to bring their own beads and mask, although Flying Bison will have extra. Prizes will be given away for the most beads, best costume and other awards throughout the event.
Music will be performed by Black Rock Zydeco.
Second annual Pints and Pierogi Festival
4 to 8 p.m. Feb. 6
Delaware Park Marcy Casino
199 Lincoln Parkway (886-0088)
Handmade Ru’s Pierogi will be served at the Marcy Casino. A large selection of craft beer will be available, including local breweries such as Resurgence Brewing Company, Community Beer Works, Big Ditch and Flying Bison.
[See photos from the inaugural Pints and Pierogi from 2015]
Pre-sale tickets are available at Eventbrite; pierogi cost one ticket each and a beer costs two tickets. Tickets cost $27.37 and include 12 tickets.
Blue Monk received the distinction of Best Restaurant in New York State for 2015 at a recent ratebeer.com poll.
Kevin Wise, Ph.D. is a Professor of Biology at Trocaire College who maintains a blog on beer science and beer reviews and can be reached at:www.buffalobeerbiochemist.com; Twitter: @BuffaloBeerBio; Untappd: @BuffaloBeerBiochemist