The Red Monk


210 4th St
Des Moines, Iowa, 50309-2206
United States

(515) 280-3771 | map

Notes: 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.
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Rated: 4.57 by craigbelly from Iowa

Mar 17, 2017
Rated: 4.5 by Will_Edgar from Iowa

Jul 13, 2015
Rated: 4.6 by thetravelguy01 from Iowa

Feb 23, 2015
Rated: 4.68 by Boomer4ES from North Carolina

Jan 31, 2015
Rated: 4.25 by afinepilsner from Iowa

Oct 03, 2014
Rated: 4.25 by bufante from Iowa

Aug 26, 2014
Rated: 4.5 by BuzzG from Iowa

Jun 17, 2014
Photo of Herky21
Reviewed by Herky21 from Iowa

4.32/5  rDev -2%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5
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.
Apr 17, 2013
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Reviewed by DCon from Missouri

4.14/5  rDev -6.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5
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.
Sep 07, 2012
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Reviewed by DesMoinesMike from Iowa

4.47/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5
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.
Mar 26, 2011
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Reviewed by Erdinger2003 from Iowa

4.09/5  rDev -7.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 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.
Mar 25, 2007
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Reviewed by hero27 from Minnesota

4.22/5  rDev -4.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5
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.
Sep 04, 2006
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Reviewed by BretSikkink from Mexico

4.25/5  rDev -3.6%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5
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.
Aug 08, 2006
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Reviewed by bennetj17 from Arizona

3.8/5  rDev -13.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4
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...
Mar 07, 2006
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Reviewed by isubsmith from Minnesota

4.75/5  rDev +7.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5
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.
Nov 20, 2005
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Reviewed by Quaffer from Nevada

4.7/5  rDev +6.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5
The Red Monk is tucked away in the upstairs of the Royal Mile in the downtown area of Des Moines. I have to say that the atmosphere is absolutely perfect. First of all, it's small enough to be cozy without being cramped. Secondly, the way they have set the place up and decorated it is great. One enters through large, thick, arched wooden double doors. These are set into a carved wooden wall punctuated by stained glass windows representing various Trappist breweries. A very nice touch that leaves no doubt to the patron just what type of place he/she is entering. The namesake of the bar is perched up toward the ceiling in one corner, eerily lit and gazing down upon all that enter. The dark paint, dark wood, and dim lighting set the mood perfectly. While I enjoyed the music during our long visit at the Monk, it did detract from the overall theme of the place. Especially when certain a Nebraskan BA insisted on pumping the place full of disco. :-)

The beer selection is great. Granted, I've seen at least one bar with a better Belgian selection (Spuyten Duyvil), but that is it. Keeping in mind that I was in the middle of Iowa, it was amazing. The bottle selection was diverse and very interesting, though not as extensive as some other specialty bars. There are only four taps available, but one is St. Bernardus 12. C'mon, how cool is that!

The service was excellent and the bartender really knew what he was talking about. On top of this, at least one of the owners seemed to be present at all times, mingling in amongst us and chatting about beer. Their enthusiasm about the beer was very evident.

A must, repeat must, visit for anyone who loves beer visiting Des Moines. I mean, you're going to go to the Royal Mile anyway, so why not just walk up the stairs.
Feb 20, 2005
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Reviewed by countblah from Illinois

4.58/5  rDev +3.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5
The Red Monk is an oasis of good Belgian beers in a city of where BMC drinkers rule the land. Good selection of bottled Belgian beer and 4 taps (Piraat, St. Bernardus 12, John’s White Ale, and 1664.) There are some minor holes in the bottle selection if I wanted to be picky, but plenty of great choices are available. Prices were about as expected for a specialty beer selection. The staff was extremely friendly and fully equipped to provide recommendations. All beers served in the always versatile tulip glass, not in specialty brewery specific glassware.

The music was on the loud side, making conversation a bit difficult. The crowd was extremely friendly, but a little more energized than I would expect from a Belgian beer bar. I would expect a slightly more laid back atmosphere in this type of bar, but it was not so over-the-top to turn me off.

I didn’t get a chance to check out the selection in the attached Royal Mile, but from what I gather there are some decent non-Belgian options if so desired.

Having such good options in Chicago, it’s easy to pick on some of the small negatives of the Red Monk. However, I would definitely put this bar in my regular rotation if it was located here. With limited options in Des Moines, this is a must visit when in Des Moines and would be my regular bar if I lived there.
Feb 05, 2005
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Reviewed by bditty187 from Nebraska

4.16/5  rDev -5.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4
Quick Update: On busy nights the room gets hot and smoky. Add in really loud music and it all but kills the enjoyment of the great Belgian beer. As such, I lowered the "Atmosphere" score from 5 to 4.

The Red Monk was the object of our affection or maybe I should say object of attraction that drew in people for the Midwest BA Gathering on November 6th, 2004. Let me just say kudos to the owners for allowing us to have a beer tasting here, some eight hours before they opened it for business.

As for The Red Monk itself, this small Belgian Beer Bar is located upstairs from the Royal Mile. It serves no food and thus doesn't open until 8 pm. It is worth the wait.

A large, heavy, arched set of wooden doors shows the way, stained glass windows bearing the names "Chimay," "Orval," and "Rochefort" leaves no doubt you are about to enter the Monk. Seating is limited; there are three large booths and a few high-top tables, plus the bar that seats, maybe, fifteen people. That's it, aside from a little standing room. Medieval looking tapestry and a couple Dutch-looking paintings set the mood. Plus there is a ghoulish-looking red monk in the corner. I think they should remove the jukebox and just play classical music! That would be mind blowing. There is only one small TV above the bar. The lights are dimmed, it is not beer geek friendly if you want to come here and review some beers. But the beer selection is definitely beer geek friendly. Four taps, Piraat, St. Bernie 12, John's White Ale, and 1664. One dud. The bottle list is very nice. It could be improved as I know what other great Belgian beers are available in Iowa. I wonder how often new products will be added? Maybe I'm being too critical or too geeky but, IMO, you don't need to stock both big and small bottles of Chimay and Lindemans. As for highlights, St. Bernardus Pater 6 & Prior 8, Westmalle Dubbel & Triple, Achel 8° Blond & Brune, Rochefort 6, 8 & 10, LaChouffe, McChouffe, Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus, a couple from Liefmans, and a couple dozen other beers. No saisons, no Orval, no Gueuze. Like I said, excellent selection that could be absolutely mind blowing! Still there is plenty to choose from. All beer was served in or with a little 8-10 ounce stemmed glass.

I didn't pay much attention to prices. It is imported Belgian beer so it isn't cheap.

Service was fantastic. The bartender, Eric I believe, was great, he was quick to get another beer or refill my water. Plus he knew something about the beer. Top-notch!

I really loved my visit. I can't wait to go back. This is a jewel of a bar. I highly recommend it.
Nov 08, 2004
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Reviewed by Ave from Iowa

4.94/5  rDev +12%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5
I am a newly arrived Des Moineack, & I was very saddened by the state of beer in this state, but then I found the corner of haven known as the Red Monk.

This place is upstairs from the Royal Mile, on 4th street, near Court Ave. It’s run by the same people as the Mile, but has a life of its own, and an entirely separate beer list. Also note it doesn’t open until around 8 pm, because of this there is no food served at the Monk.

Upon going up stairs you see a small room finished in dark pub looking woods, a kitchen entrance to one side, half a dozen empty tables, & a large heavy set of arched wooden doors. These are flanked by stained glass windows bearing names such as “Chimay” “Orval” “Rochefort”. Through these doors is the Red Monk.

It’s an equally smallish room, 3 booths line the wall facing the bar, a few tall bar table populate the space between. There are a few silly 17th century Belgian / Dutch looking paintings around. The jukebox is stocked with quality. In one corner up on a pedestal is a frightful looking statue of a monk, all in read with its face hooded. Very spooky no? There is a single double wide reach in cooler stocked with the goods, a mere 4 taps, and a glasses rack above.

The glasses in this rack are note worthy. They have the real deal glasses for Chimay, Orval, & a few of the other selections. For those they don’t have the breweriana for, they serve everything in either narrow goblets or tulips. The cooler is kept at a cool 50 degrees, & the tap lines are well taken care of.

The selection is as impressive as you could hope for in Iowa. It is all Belgian, with a few Belgian style selections. All the Trappest are here in bottles. 3 Achels’, 5 Chimays’, 3 Rocheforts’, 3 Wesmalles’, & Orval. Others include, Cantillion, Liefmans, Melbourne, Pirrat, Bouchanier, Dulden Draak, Belxebuth, St Bernardus (8, 12 & trip), Petrus, Bink, Bos Keun, La Chouffe, Caracole, La Binchoise, Duchesse & Hommel. Non Belgians include Adriaan, A le coq, Celebrator, Eku 82, K’s & Traquair.

Disappointing as it may seem that they only have 4 taps, fear not for they are well chosen. Piraat, Kronenbourg, John’s Belgian White, & (great googely moogely) St Bernardus 12. To have a chance to sample these brews out of a tap is a chance that can not be passed up.

Honestly the only complaint I could levy against the selection, is that in a field of 15 lambics, there is only one Cantillion.

The staff is obviously in love with the idea of this place. I heard bartender Ben give very good information on every selection he was asked about, & poured with love in his heart. I got the feeling that Kent the owner put this place together as much as an attempt to show Iowa what real beer can be, as much as to make a profit. The pricing reflects the tax structure in Iowa, so things can get a little high. But there is no gouging going on.

All in all, this is one hell of a bar. Go! Enjoy!

Aug 04, 2004
The Red Monk in Des Moines, IA
Place rating: 4.41 out of 5 with 19 ratings