Bearded Monk Celebrating 1 Year of Serving Denton Craft Beer

The owner of Bearded Monk never exhausts his energy. Ben F. Esely is a prime example of "get up and go" philosophy. Thanks to his drive and a crew managed by Ben Webster that was recently voted as the Best of Denton bar staff, the Bearded Monk has officially made it through their first year of being open for business.  This entire weekend the store will celebrate in grand fashion with Nice Dudes Servicing Craft, The Boombachs, and comedy. They got to this point by cultivating an atmosphere where anyone can be themselves and everyone loves to talk about beer. 

Bearded Monk isn’t the only bar or beer store to hold communal events, but they set themselves apart with their support for local arts. They’ve hosted film screenings, growler painting sessions, spoken word performances, and private Sofar Sounds concerts.

Esely is eager to help up-and-coming artists and local charities raise funds. He relates beer to the famed klondike bar. What would someone do for a glass of craft beer? Why not help some nice people out with your purchase? Ben says “You can do something more than just alcohol product. It can be used for the greater good.” 

The art wall of Bearded Monk featuring works by Eric Mancini.

Denton is a hotbed of artistic talent that is sustained by the transient creatives attending local colleges. The Bearded Monk is one of several craft beer bars (other notables include Taps and Caps and Midway Craft House) that are picking up the slack on the current lack of venues. Inexperienced artists are still being given a chance to learn how to promote their own shows.

If Esely had the resources, he’d be hosting art and beer events at his house. Through Bearded Monk he can accentuate the culture of the town and invite people over. This homely attitude resonates through the rest of the staff who won't be as snobby as Rob Gordon’s record store staff in High Fidelity. 

Webster says, “If someone comes in and says they drink Bud Light or Natty Light. I never wanna hear anyone critique that. That is their taste buds.” Webster is responsible for training the staff to be humble keepers of craft beer knowledge.

He adds, “When you come in here you're betting with your dollars that you're going to get a good beer. We help you make good bets.” Being able to help someone find a beer they like is part of the fun. Webster says they make a game out of it. The staff challenges each other to figure out what someone will like in one guess.

What fueled this passion for craft beer? The Bens of Bearded Monk get excited for new releases the same way music aficionados anticipate the next Bon Iver track. If you’ve gone down the rabbit hole in listening to music, then you can remember the first album that led you away from the mainstream. Maybe an older brother played you some Dead Kennedys to shake your obsession with emo music - perhaps your best friend put in the debut album from Broken Social Scene on a road trip to the coast and your whole life changed.

Esely’s world changed when his older brother brought home a case of La Fin du Monde. From there he started searching for new Belgian styles and making frequent visits to the bustling brewery scene in Colorado. Webster recalls his first sip of beer as a revolting experience. Then while visiting Scotland his grandfather gave him a glass of Guinness. He didn’t know there could be that much flavor in a drink, and for a while, he wouldn’t even drink a beer that you could see through.

Webster then married Esely’s wife’s sister and a friendship was forged on a shared passion for craft beer. In 2009, amongst a group of 5 they started a blog called The Beer Drinker’s Society. What started as a casual interest then became full-fledged love. Esely built up strong relationships with local breweries, and he was asked to blog about beer for the Dallas Morning News and Guidelive. Through blogging about beer, Esely learned there are some really cool people behind those bottles we drink. “It became less about the beer and more personal and about the people. These guys are artists,” Ben shares. “They’re creative and they’re very passionate about the beer and everything that goes around beer.”

Esely chose to open his store in Denton due to his positive experiences here while earning his entrepreneurship degree at UNT. It was very early in his planning when he asked Webster to be the manager and beer expert. 

The Monkiversary festivites begin Friday the 14th when Nice Dudes Servicing Craft attempts to coordinate a 500 person shotgunning of beer. All sales of Montucky beer will be donated to Serve Denton. Saturday evening will have a host of music acts headlined by Boxcar Bandits and Richard Gilbert. At 4pm on Sunday, the fun closes out with a set by the Boombachs and comedy open mic night. Cheers to there being many more years of Bearded Monk being open for business.

Photos by Mateo Granados
Header image design by Jason Lee