The Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco, California

Barkeep by | Apr 2012 | Issue #63

The Monk's Kettle

When Christian Albertson made the move to San Francisco, he was surprised to find it wasn’t what he expected. It was 2004, and he’d cut his teeth running restaurants in Denver and Boston. But he found the Bay Area sorely lacking in quality brewpubs, despite a vibrant craft beer scene. “Toronado was about it,” he recalls. “I found there was a wine bar on every corner. As a result, people knew a lot about wine, but there was no one that was focusing on educating the clientele about craft beer.”

The Monk’s Kettle, which he co-founded with Nat Cutler in San Francisco’s Mission District in December 2007, hosts 24 drafts and around 180 bottles, including 10–15 vintage selections in the subterranean cellar of the extremely intimate space (the capacity is just 45). “There are many factors that go into making choices for the beer list, but essentially, it boils down to quality and balance,” says Albertson, who is also the establishment’s beer program director. “Balance means flavor profiles, but also format size, price and different versions of a style.”

Square in the middle of the bar, framing shelves of proprietary glassware, is an antique wooden mantle bookended by gape-mouthed lions. A handful of tables line the opposite wall. The bar’s limited space is conducive to community, says floor manager Ryan Corbett. He’s worked as an assistant brewer in Massachusetts, happened upon Monk’s Kettle in its opening week, and was offered a job not long after that. Clearly, he loves what he’s been doing for the past three years. “Duh. Every day I go to work, there is something new to try,” Corbett says. “The day that it is no longer exciting is the day I walk away.”

Lunch regular Eddie Dinel also praises the cozy ambience, though he was initially drawn in by the pub’s cheeseburger. Wowed by Albertson’s and executive chef Adam Dulye’s suggested beer pairings, he became a beer-dinner devotee in no time. “Everyone can find a good lunchtime bar that’s sufficient,” Dinel says. “Hemingway talked about how all any man needs is a bar and a harpoon, right? But the beer dinners, those are special. It’s hard to be knowledgeable and approachable simultaneously, but Christian and Nat have done a great job hiring folks who can do that. It’s always felt like a comfortable place to come in, shoot the breeze and get turned on to new stuff.”