Drink of the Week: North Coast Brother Thelonious

The Stable
1821 Cherokee Street

A few sips into our Warsteiner Oktoberfest, and we were plenty happy with our selection: It was smooth, seasonal, and when we tilted the glass at just the right angle, it reflected the light in such a way that it took on the incandescence of a jack-o'-lantern aglow. In a word, lovely. But then this, from across the table: "Holy shit, that is so good. It's got so much power...I...I could get 'faced on this. God, that's good. Oh my God." Perhaps not the most eloquent soliloquy we've ever heard, but probably the most enthusiastic. This, paired with our waiter's ominous warning, "If you drink two of these, don't try and stand up too quickly," and we were wholly intrigued by North Coast Brother Thelonious.

The Stable has been open since late June in the Lemp Brewery's erstwhile wagon house and, not unexpectedly, stables, and its rich history is on display from the brick interior to the rustic-looking chandeliers, all of it accented by handsome ruby napkins and spit-and-polish glassware. Two areas of the Stable, the distillery and the brew house, are set off by glass walls, and will someday crank out the Stable's own handcrafted spirits.

Cofounder Jesse Jones (described on the Stable's menu as "Chief, Cook and Bottle Washer") says that though he started out as a wine enthusiast, he found his true passion in the foamy stuff. In fact, he's amassed so much knowledge that last year he was a judge in Finland's tenth annual Helsinki Beer Festival. Jones continually marvels over beer's depth and breadth, and he views the Stable as a natural outgrowth of that passion. "It just made sense," he shrugs, as though opening the Stable's the most obvious career move he's ever made. The evidence of how much thought went into the beer list abounds: The Stable not only offers twenty-plus beers on tap, but there are plenty of hard-to-find bottles on the menu also, along with succinct, helpful tasting notes.

The Stable, 1821 Cherokee Street; 314-771-8500

Wedged between Left Hand Twin Sisters and Michelob is North Coast Brother Thelonious, a Belgian-style abbey ale out of Fort Bragg, California; it's also known as "Monk" to the jazz- and beer-savvy set. Its tasting notes are a bit intimidating ("Rich and robust dark strong ale"), and it's got a monstrous alcohol by volume to boot (9.3 percent).

Monk most recalls a rich espresso, right down to its frothy head which clings to the side of the hourglass-shaped goblet like fine crèma. But most surprising to us is that it isn't so thick that we're bloated after one glass, nor is it so strong that we're intimidated by its smell before we even pick it up for a taste. Brother Thelonious comes across as nutty — chestnuts, maybe? — with subliminal suggestions of plum. It single-handedly challenges us to rethink our perception of dark beers as uniformly thick and largely unapproachable.

And as far as eloquence is concerned, Jesse Jones' riff on the beer is music and verse itself: "Brother Thelonious starts as a comfortable groove and ends just strong and funky enough to make you want to join the circus." Groove on, Brother. Groove on.

Got a drink suggestion? E-mail kristie.mcclanahan@riverfronttimes.com

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