Today, April 16, 2016, marks the end of an era. Buffalo beer haven The Blue Monk will close its doors due to irreconcilable differences between owners. For many loyal Elmwood patrons, this one stings. The Blue Monk has become a neighborhood fixture on the strip. The blue hand of absolution depicted on the Blue Monk logo represents a beacon of craft beer progress in Buffalo.
I wrote about the Blue Monk last October, in an article that can be found here. In that article, owner Mike Shatzel sat with me on the Blue Monk patio during its 5 year anniversary celebration and spoke of the events leading up to the bar opening in 2011. The one thing I learned is that this bar is special to Shatzel. He called it “his baby.”
Blue Monk is special to others as well. I was contacted via e-mail by a loyal patron, Mike Wiencek. Wiencek had read my article on Buffalo.com about the beer made by De Struise Brewers in Belgium for Blue Monk. Wiencek asked if I could send him a photograph that he viewed in the article. Here’s how the e-mail began:
I’m a Buffalo native, born and raised, and I was devastated to learn that Blue Monk will soon be shutting its doors forever. In general, I’ve always followed Mike Shatzel’s ventures with great interest since being introduced to him in the early days of Blue Monk, and I’ve spent considerable time enjoying myself at all of his various establishments. However I must admit that there’s a special place in my heart for Blue Monk: Not only is it by far my favorite bar AND restaurant in the region (I’d take Blue Monk’s duck poutine over just about any other order from any other joint in town), but it’s also where my future wife and I had our very first date.
Earlier this month, a friend visited Belgium and was able to transport a few Blue Monk beers made by De Struise Brewers back to the United States. I was honored to be able to present Shatzel this beer, named after Blue Monk, for the first time.
And yesterday, I stopped into the Blue Monk to bid my farewell, as so many beer fans have been doing since hearing the news of its closing. The overwhelming quote heard throughout the bar was:
I can’t believe after Saturday, I won’t be able to sit here and have a beer.
The Blue Monk epitomizes the craft beer revolution that has tidal-waved Buffalo over the past few years. Indeed, many feel the Blue Monk is responsible for kick-starting this movement. The Belgian beer bar was cast from a mold which has been borrowed but never duplicated.
Worldwide-spotlight events such as world-renown Cantillon’s Zwanze Day and HBO’s Game of Thrones new beer release cemented the Blue Monk’s reputation.
The towering draft board offered selections that most Buffalonians had never seen. Words such as gueuze and lambic were heard for the first time.
In a word, the Blue Monk was iconic. Shatzel’s vision was a symbol of progress and a of paradigm of change.
Yes, Shatzel has other plans. He will be opening his first brewery, Thin Man Brewery, in a location not far from Blue Monk. He has purchased Colter Bay and is renovating that building. And who knows where the next iteration of Blue Monk will land? If there is any comfort in the Blue Monk’s closing, it’s that the “next Monk” will undoubtedly be just as good, if not better, than the original.
But Shatzel must now say goodbye to his baby.
And so must we.