Dining: Mug Shots

Where old meets new

Feb 4, 2009 at 6:00 am

My friends Saint Graham and Flyboy joined me recently for a Sunday lunchtime visit to the Monkey Wrench, and as Flyboy eased his monster pick-up into a handy parking space, my first impression had absolutely nothing to do with the Monkey Wrench.

Across the way at Barret and Oak stands the building I hazily recall as the site of Hasenour’s, where the late Max Allen used to tend bar during the restaurant’s imperial postwar heyday. Max wasn’t really a beer drinker, at least not in the arc of my orbit, but the man sure knew his bourbon. I still miss his lessons on distilling lore.

Beer, not bourbon, was the objective at Monkey Wrench, and nosing around Louisville in 2009 in the search for good beer, don’t expect to be regaled with stories about wine, cocktails, longnecks, wet T-shirts, karaoke or other irrelevancies, although food and feel rate highly.

A folksy string band was winding down Monkey Wrench’s popular Sunday morning brunch as we made for the bar to survey the taps. The view was pleasing. BBC APA, BBC Bourbon Barrel Stout, Bell’s Two Hearted, Browning’s She-Devil IPA, Guinness and NABC Bob’s Old 15-B made for a fine locally accented draft list, topped by what almost certainly was a very brief cameo by Bell’s HopSlam, a limited annual release from Michigan that turns grown beer aficionados into weepy masses of alcoholic, hop-laden goo.

A fried asparagus starter was followed by sandwiches and chili, and we enjoyed food, beer and attentive service with a casual neighborhood vibe, not so much derived from tired references to “Cheers,” but from knowing that many of the Monkey Wrench’s customers can walk or bicycle from their homes and not always be compelled to drive.

There are noticeable differences between urban and exurban, classical and contemporary, and microbrews and mockrobrews. Hasenour’s was old Louisville, and Monkey Wrench is new. I’ll be back.


Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit potablecurmudgeon.blogspot.com for more beer.