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The Red Monk

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14 Ratings
Ratings: 14
Reviews: 12
rAvg: 4.37
pDev: 6.64%
Taps: 4
Bottles: 45
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Bar ]

210 4th St
Des Moines, Iowa, 50309-2206
United States
phone: (515) 280-3771

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @theredmonk

This Belgian beer bar is located inside (and on the second floor of) The Royal Mile; there is no external signage for The Red Monk.

(Place added by: Ave)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 14 | Reviews: 12 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by Erdinger2003:
Photo of Erdinger2003
4.09/5  rDev -6.4%

Walked into the Royal Mile, was directed up the steps to the bar. It was 8:35pm on a Saturday night and there was no one there. The selection was resonate from John's Grocery, only a few things tht John's may not have had anymore. Their beer selection was good, expecially for Iowa, however they had only 4 types of glasses: St. Bernardus, Orval, and Duinin....along with a pathetic little glass they have many of to give to people to use. The theme of the bar was definetly kinda Belgian, there are what appears to be mythical birds holding lights in their beaks. The lights are swining I found out after leaning back in my chair and bumping one. Nice atmosphere, but after 10pm the place started to pack with Miller Lite/mixed drinkers. There were still some people who ordered the Belgians, there were just Miller/mixed drinkers too. My Lambic was very nice, I have never had a chilled lambic, but it warmed up after a couple of hours and I finished it. Very nice. Another bothersome thing to me was that the older couples (2) next to me had ordered a giant Guldan Draak, one gentleman asked me if I would trade some of my beer for some of his. We traded and I noticed right away in the smell it was very boozey and nothing like any Guldan Draak I had ever had before. It was like drinking alcohol flavored with cardboard, they did keep in in th fridge (probably for over a year). Perhaps the seal dried, causing so much oxidation. I notice they also have over 1/3 mark up. Nice. I should've expected less because it was Iowa, but I expected it to be like Chicago or Wisconson. Still the best of Iowa is not the best of the beer scene.

Erdinger2003, Mar 25, 2007
More User Reviews:
Photo of bufante
4.25/5  rDev -2.7%

bufante, Aug 26, 2014
Photo of BuzzG
4.5/5  rDev +3%

BuzzG, Jun 17, 2014
Photo of Herky21
4.32/5  rDev -1.1%

Atmosphere - it's like a Belgian Monastary, but with a few twists. There are all types of Belgian beer signs, and a giant touch screen beer explorer. Stained glass is on certain walls and arches, and the place is poorly lit, even by bar standards. Nice big booths, and a lot of tables and chairs in the front room.

Quality - Great.

Service - usually quick, and with good recommendations. There are a lot of unique Belgian beers here and knowing which bottles are good is very helpful (tap beers too).

Selection - It is extremely unusual to see so many great Belgian beers on tap.

Value - $7 for a beer is a lot, but they are all great imported Belgians so that is a fair price. I'd say the bottles go a little high, with bombers and 750 mls, but normal mark-ups.

Herky21, Apr 17, 2013
Photo of DCon
4.14/5  rDev -5.3%

Came into the Red Monk after enjoying a brew from the basement bar (The Royal Mile) and asking around about where the location of the Red Monk was! Signage was very limited for this beer bar but there were two sets of stairs to come up to this belgian jem. Didn't spend much time inside but can review it based on the great experience I had!

Walking up the wooden stairs from the Royal Mile, you are introduced to a kitchen on the left and the bar straight ahead. There are stain glass windows with Westmalle, Orval, Chimay, and others branded on the colored glass. Wooden tables and very neat all around. Very easy going beer bar but nothing too wild about it... Selection blew my mind from a distance though!

Quality and service went hand in hand here but were very good. Was given a beer list on request and while she didn't have the prices memorized, she looked them up in the computer for me. The price for each beer the only thing they needed to add on their beer list... Some beers may have been overpriced since they didn't list these.

The selection was VERY good! I ordered a Boulevard Love Child #2, which I have never seen in a beer bar yet. There was also a Lips of Faith, Delirium, and many other Belgians on-tap. Their bottle list was the most incredible part and many visible in the cooler they had behind the bar.

I suggest starting out at the Royal Mile or checking out what music they have outside (if your here on a weekend night) before coming up to the Red Monk. Trust me, it will still be waiting here for you.

DCon, Sep 07, 2012
Photo of DesMoinesMike
4.47/5  rDev +2.3%

As you go upstairs from the Mile you see additional restaurant space with similar motif. But towards the end of the room is a wall with gothic-style stained glass windows with a smaller bar area beyond. Introducing the Red Monk. A beer bar that focuses on Belgian beers and others that are Belgian style or heavier than the norm. It can be summed up as "they have delirium tremens on tap!" They even had tulip glasses to ensure you get the full bouquet of the beer. The bartender was knowledgeable about the beer menu and was s good server. My only beef is the music getting unnecessarily loud after 7. So sitting in the area by the stairs is a good balance. You are able to get the Royal Mile's food menu and beer from both places. If the Miles is a bit crowed and loud, take a walk upstairs for a good beer experience.

DesMoinesMike, Mar 26, 2011
Photo of hero27
4.22/5  rDev -3.4%

The Red Monk is located in the same building as the Royal Mile. Except it's on the second floor and doesn't open until around 8pm.

After you ascend the many stairs..the atmosphere upstairs is very dark, low lighting, like an old candle-lit monestary (I'm assuming that's the look they were going for). Additional stained glass windows make it look gothic and add to the authenticity..

Six Belgians on-tap when I was there. St. Bernardus 12 & Tripel, Delirium Tremens, La Binchoise, Gulden Draak, and I can't recall the other one at the moment.

I asked about a couple beers on their menu, and they were out of them both unfortunately. As far as the service, the bartender seemed to know enough, but with a slight arrogance that everyone in the group I was with noticed. He seemed to be mildly annoyed even by our casual chit-chat, but no big deal. Since the place is quite small (bar maybe seats 8-10), it's a pretty cozy atmosphere.

This is the best Belgian bar in the state. I don't really think you can argue against that.. however, the Lava Lounge in Waterloo is a fairly close second. Essentially the same tap rotations..both have St. Bernardus 12, Delirium, La Binchoise, Gulden Draak, Piraat, etc. Bottle selection is a bit better at The Red Monk, though.

Overall, it's obviously a great place to stop if you want to try some fantastic Belgian beer. Since there are some great British beers just downstairs, you can kill two birds with one stone.

hero27, Sep 04, 2006
Photo of BretSikkink
4.25/5  rDev -2.7%

I want to love this place.

Every time I've been the music has been too loud and louts have been crowding the bar.

Caters to the Belgian import crowd, or would if any erudite student of beer could get close to the bar. Chimay, Westmalle and Orval stained-glass as you walk in; the marketing inside the doors is more along the mainstream lines: Chimay again, Piraat, Lindeman's.

Good selection, some holes to fill. St. B 12 on tap is a two-thumbs up plus, although 1664 is a two-thumbs down minus (a weak Frenchie in a Belgian beer pub?) Also, putting Westvleteran on the beer menu (albeit with the "subject to availability" qualification) is a bit pretentious, esp. when the barkeep told me he hadn't seen it in "a few months."

Decent lambic selection, but where are the Cantillon?

Awesome place to visit, more than recommended if you're from the area or just passing through. No beer to go is a bummer, but if you are in need of a solid import bar with a good selection of cold Belgians, stop right in.

Update, first of September '06: still loud, still a packed bar. Nice tap rotation, throwing in the Tripel, Binchoise and Gulden Draak. How long has the St. Bernie's 12 been there though?

One huge complaint I had the first time but forgot to mention: Bottles are EXTREMELY cold. I want my Bud Light to be icy, but most of the beers in that fridge will recommend 45 degrees or higher as their serving temperature. Rough estimate is that these fine, fine Belgian ales are served below 40 degrees.

*Update 2* October '08: Smoking ban = awesome for this place. The atmosphere was much better than in the past, and my bottle wasn't AS cold as I remember. Taps - meh. Seem to be phasing out the challenging beers and putting in easier to drink ales. Local John's White Ale is cool, a New Belgium is acceptable once in a while, but this is getting to be the norm.

BretSikkink, Aug 08, 2006
Photo of bennetj17
3.8/5  rDev -13%

I've been wanting to make a trip to this Belgian haven since it opened. It's upstairs above the Royal Mile, and not very big, which is fine. The entrance to the bar area has monestary-like window, with stained glass and Orval, Westmalle, and Chimay logos. There's a few tables and booths, it's kind of dim lit overall. I didn't really like the loud music they played from the jukebox, it made it harder to have a conversation. Also I would like to see this sort of place be non-smoking.

The bartender was friendly, but I'm not sure how much he really knew about the beers. The one thing he did know was that they were out of most of the ones I was trying to order. Some of the best: St Bernardus 12, Rochefort 10, and 8, were all listed on the menu, but not in stock. I settled for a St Bernardus Tripel. They had a few taps, Delirium Tremens, John's Beglian White, and couple others. The cooler was stocked full of different bottles, a few of which you don't see at many liquor stores in the area.

Overall it has the best selection of Belgians in the area, but it wasn't exciting enough for me to want to go there often. Alot of smoke and loud music. People will literally go there because they hear that St Bernardus 12 is on tap, so may disappoint a bit when its not. Great place for Iowa though...

bennetj17, Mar 07, 2006
Photo of isubsmith
4.75/5  rDev +8.7%

The Red Monk is a small bar tucked next to a restaurant upstairs from a bar. Sounds rather complicated...

Anyway, the Royal Mile used to have the entire upstairs as a restaurant and the downstairs as a bar. Now, the upstairs is split in half with the Red Monk taking up half of the space.

The beer selection at the Red Monk is the finest in Iowa, bar none, especially if you like Belgians. They have the standard selection of trappist and abbey-style ales plus a few other strong Belgians. Beers are at least served in tulips. Some beers (ie, Chimay and Orval at least) are served in authentic glasses. There are only a few taps (4 I think) but they usually have excellent beers in the taps.

The bar tenders tend to know their stuff and can describe most of the beers if you haven't had them before. They can also recommend things if they happen to be out of something. They really seem passionate about the beer and sharing what good beer is with other people.

The bar doesn't open until 9 despite the fact that the restaurant and downstairs bar are open earlier.

Prices are very reasonable for what they have to go through in Iowa to get such fine beers.

My biggest complaint with the place is that it seems to attract an above average number of heavy-duty smokers. The room is entirely too small for the amount of smoke typically present. Perhaps I have just become spoiled by drinking without smokers, but the Red Monk seems pretty bad. The last time I was there, my eyes were watering even after we opened the window. It makes it even more of a shame that you can't order their wonderful beer while eating in the non-smoking restaurant section.

isubsmith, Nov 20, 2005
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The Red Monk in Des Moines, IA
94 out of 100 based on 14 ratings.